The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Open Theism: is it true, possible or biblical?


I am a gentile, and I didn’t “come in” to the Body of Christ until well after the first century, so how could my ‘coming in’ be a 1st century event?

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.” Romans 11:25-26.

“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me [Jesus], the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child [i.e, recognize and repent], and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. Zech. 10.

Gentiles are still coming into the Body of Christ until this very day, so we still not at the full number of gentiles to come in; and certainly the en masse repentance of Israel to accept Jesus of Nazareth as their Messiah, foretold in Romans 11 and Zechariah 10 above, is likewise yet unfulfilled.

Jerusalem will again be surrounded by hostile armies. As I pointed out earlier,

You say,

Again, we differ on what is figurative, and what is literal. We are indeed the spiritual temple of God, with Christ as the cornerstone, but a physical temple will yet be rebuilt.

As to sacrifices in the OT foreshadowing the sacrifice of Christ, I of course agree. But the sacrifices by the Jews at the Temple during the coming Millennial Age will, like the Lord’s Supper, memorialize the sacrifice of Christ, not take away sins.

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:4.


There are various camps within futurism, with differences about, e.g., when the Antichrist will appear on the world stage, and about the timing of the Rapture/s. (For example, I believe that the Antichrist will apparently rescue the world from impending destruction, and then lead the world into a prolonged era of unprecedented peace and prosperity—an era shockingly punctuated by the first, Pre-Tribulation Rapture.)

But there is agreement that Antichrist will desecrate the the temple:

Daniel 9:26-27
26 … The people of the coming prince will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come with a flood, and until the end there will be war; desolations are decreed. 27 He [=the prince, Antichrist] will make a firm covenant with many for one week [the 70th week], but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering. And the abomination of desolation will be on a wing of the temple, until the decreed destruction is poured out on the desolator.

For Antichrist to “put a stop to sacrifice and offering,” there must again be a temple, with sacrifice and offering.

The following warning of Christ—which I believe, in contradiction to the hopes of open theism, will indeed come to pass—reveals details that were clearly not literally fulfilled in the first century AD, in contradiction to preterism:

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand
16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then ALL THE PEOPLES OF THE EARTH will mourn when they SEE the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.
31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call
, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

Matthew 24:14-16, 30-31.

Here is yet another news item regarding movement toward the rebuilding of a literal temple in Jerusalem:

7 DAYS UNTIL DEDICATION OF 3RD TEMPLE ALTAR: 70 nations invited to Jerusalem Sanhedrin declaration, replace U.N.

JERUSALEM – The re-established Jewish Sanhedrin is pushing the envelope on the rebuilding of the Temple next Monday, the last evening of Hanukkah, by consecrating a stone altar and reading of a declaration to all nations intended as an invitation to participate in receiving its blessings – leading to an effort to replace the United Nations with a new, God-centered organization.

A full-dress re-enactment of the Korban Olah Tamid (the daily offering) will also take place, with Kohanim (Jewish men of the priestly caste descended from Aaron) wearing biblically mandated garb leading the ceremony.

Where the event takes place is not yet known as the city of Jerusalem is dealing with security concerns, as the ceremony could set off Muslim protests or violence if performed in view of the Temple Mount.

Whether the priests will ritually slaughter a lamb or prepared meat be used is still a question, though the Sanhedrin has received the necessary permits from government organizations. In either case, the meat will be roasted on the newly consecrated altar…


Well… contrary to your assertion THIS is what Jesus proclaimed, with Paul likewise proclaiming, seeing and affirming the same…

Act 1:8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Rom 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

Rom 10:18 But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: "Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.

Rom 16:26 …but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith—

Col 1:5b-6 the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth.

Col 1:23 …if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Will your wooden literalism NOW conveniently disappear in a vain attempt to rationalise these texts away that prove your statement above to be inaccurate?

You couldn’t have given a clearer and better example the dispensational modus operandi… newspaper theology!


I am a gentile, and I didn’t “come in” to the Body of Christ until well after the first century, so how could my ‘coming in’ be a 1st century event?

That “fullness of the gentiles” means every gentile becoming a Christian is merely a presupposition you’re bringing to the text. Jesus gave the timeframe for the fullness of the gentiles. Jerusalem ceased being trampled almost 2000 years ago. Therefore the fullness of gentiles has happened.


Shadows pointed toward what was to come. I don’t think things would go from shadow to reality then back to shadow again. Animal sacrifices were part of the Old covenant, which according to the Hebraist was obsolete and passing away 2000 years ago.


Jerusalem will again be surrounded by hostile armies. As I pointed out earlier,

Perhaps that will happen, but it won’t fulfill any prophecies. During the Olivet discourse, Jesus circumscribed the timeframe for Jerusalem being surrounded to his audience members’ generation.


MY wooden literalism? In the face of verses like these…

Col. 1:5-6 (KJV)
For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:

…unlike you, I do not believe the gospel is literally already come “in all the world.”

I agree, for example, with New Testament scholar A.T. Robertson (1863-1934) on this point:

In all the world (εν παντ τω κοσμω). A legitimate hyperbole, for the gospel was spreading all over the Roman Empire.

Of course, I do believe that the gospel will be literally preached in the whole world, as prophesied by Jesus (in the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24), followed by “the end” coming:

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

But this work will be completed by angels (or messengers, which could be glorified humans) from heaven, during the coming eviction of the devil:

Rev. 14:6
Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people.


I don’t believe every gentile will become part of the limited number of people who will finally comprise the full Body of Christ. Everyone will become a follower of Christ, but there is a fixed number in the “Bride,” and there will be a “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 19:9) before the Second Coming of Christ, back to earth with all his saints, on white horses!

Jerusalem will again be trampled (Rev. 11:2). The ending date for the fullness of gentiles coming in, is marked by the (obviously still future) en masse repentance of Israel at the Second Coming of Christ, as discussed above regarding Zechariah 12 and Romans 11.


Again, do you consider the Lord’s Supper a shadow, or a memorial to the reality of what Christ has already done? The temple sacrifices during the coming Millennial Age must therefore be memorial.


Again, I have argued thus:


In Revelation, “Babylon” = Jerusalem. Who killed the prophets? In what city was Jesus slain? All the righteous blood from Abel to Zechariah would be paid for by whom?


The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Jesus as a memorial for the NEW Covenant. Animal sacrifices were part of the Old Covenant, which the Hebraist said was passing away. Why bring Old Covenant rituals into the New, superior Covenant? Again, Jesus taught not to mix the old with the new.


It strains credulity to imagine that when someone spoke to people about things that would happen within their generation, the speaker really meant another generation thousands of years later.


Not really as it began being trampled about 2,000 years ago in 70AD as Romans and muslims count as gentiles. It ceased being trampled on in 1967.


I’ve yet to read Surprised by Hope, but apparently TW answers some of the questions concerning the ‘Second Coming’ etc. so I’m anxious to read it.
I can’t verify the accuracy of this post, but I found it somewhere on the www:

Now that this is established he moves on to the question of the second coming in chapter eight, “When He Appears.” First, he says, Jesus never himself talked about his second coming. Here he appears to be advocating a form of partial preterism, though I’m not familiar enough with preterism to say this with certainty. The second coming was a doctrine worked out among the earliest Christians (before the time of Paul) as a conclusion drawn from the doctrines of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Wright defines parousia, the word used by Paul to describe the second coming, not as “coming,” but as “presence.” The word was in common use as meaning either the “mysterious presence of a god” or the visit of a person of high rank – like the emperor – to a subject state; it is obvious why Paul would have used the word to describe the second coming.

This “presence” then does not mean that Jesus is going to literally descend from the heaven “up there” at his coming. Since heaven and earth are both two dimensions of the same reality what the second coming means is that those two dimensions will be joined – think of the New Jerusalem of Rev. 21 - and Jesus will be truly present with us. And this appearance will make all things new.

There will come a time, which might indeed come at any time, when, in the great renewal of the world that Easter itself foreshadowed, Jesus himself will be personally present and will be the agent and model of the transformation that will happen both to the whole world and also to believers. end quote

Now I will apologize - this next is kind of lengthy, but it’s the clearest expression of what TW means by ‘second coming’ that I’ve come across. The link to the full thing is at the end.

Christian future hope

Before we can address that, however, a word is needed about future hope. Some, particularly those nurtured on lurid speculations about the future, may suppose that in questioning these interpretations of biblical texts I am denying future hope altogether. Nothing could be further [39] from the truth. I attack the caricature in order to allow the reality to re-emerge from the shadows.

The reality is one of hope, not optimism. For the last two or three centuries the Western world has been nurtured on a belief in Progress. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, we have been taught to believe that the world is getting better and better. Industrial progress, technological innovation, and the many-sided wisdom of the Enlightenment, have produced and will produce a world in which old evils will be left behind. Try telling that to a Holocaust survivor, a Tutsi refugee, a Honduran peasant. Fortunately, their voices and others like them have now been heard, and, as we shall see in the next chapter, the arrogance of “modernist” optimism has been properly challenged by the movement known as “postmodernity”. But where does that leave hope?

Hope has to do, not with steady progress, but with a belief that the world is God’s world and that God has continuing plans for it. The signs of this hope within the world at large are not the evidences of an evolution from lower to higher forms of life, or from one ethical or political system to another, but the signs built in to the created order itself: music, the birth of a baby, the appearance of spring flowers, grass growing through concrete, the irrepressibility of human love. Some parts [40] of our world simply point beyond themselves, and say “Look! Despite all, there is hope.”

Within the biblical story, there are several moments that give particular focus and clarity to this hope. The Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt after their slavery. The return from exile in Babylon. The public career of Jesus, announcing the kingdom of God. And particularly, after his shameful and unspeakably awful death, Jesus’ astonishing resurrection from the dead. From the very beginning of Christianity, the events concerning Jesus were seen as the fulfillment of the hope to which the Exodus had pointed. This was the real liberation. The future had arrived in the present. Hope came to meet us in person.

But (and at this point Christians and Jews would agree) the world has not yet become all that the biblical hope would indicate. We do not yet see peace and justice reigning hand in hand. The very first Christian writer known to us, the apostle Paul, wrestled with this question and came up with a clear solution. The hope arrives in two stages. Jesus’ resurrection was the prototype, the beginning and the model for the new world that is yet to be. His coming out of the tomb into a new life was the personal, close-up equivalent of the Israelites emerging from their slavery in Egypt. The hope is that God will [41] eventually do for the whole creation what he did for Jesus; God is at work in the present, by the Spirit of Jesus, to prepare the world for that great remaking, that great unveiling (that great apocalypse , in fact) of the future plan.

But that future, when it arrives, will not mean the abandonment of the present world, but rather its fulfillment. The whole creation, says Paul, will be liberated from its present enslavement to the forces of decay and death. You don’t liberate something by destroying it. All the beauty, all the goodness, all the pulsating life of the present creation, is to be enhanced, lifted to a new level, in the world that is to be. There is no room here for the dualism that goes with so much apocalypticism. Rather there is a strong incentive to work, in the present, to anticipate the new world in every possible way. Those who are grasped by the vision of God’s new world unveiled in Jesus’ resurrection are already sharing in that newness, and are called to produce, in the present time, more and more signposts to point to this eventual and glorious future.

The central feature of the hope held out in the Bible is of course the personal presence of Jesus himself. Many Christians, not least those who tend towards apocalypticism, have reduced this feature of the hope to the belief [42] that one day Jesus will appear, flying downwards from the sky, perhaps riding on a cloud. This event, the “second coming”, is in fact the event for which many of the groups who see great significance in the year 2000 are getting ready, not least those going off to Jerusalem to witness it.

However, most of the biblical passages that are quoted in support of the idea of Jesus returning by flying downwards on a cloud are best seen as classic examples of apocalyptic language, rich biblical metaphor. They are not to be taken with wooden literalness. “The son of man coming on the clouds”, in Mark 13.26 and elsewhere, does not refer to Jesus’ return to earth, but to Jesus’ vindication , “coming” from earth to heaven, to be enthroned as Lord of the world. (For fuller details, see my Jesus and the Victory of God , SPCK/Fortress, 1996, chapters 8 and 11.) And the one occasion when Paul uses the language of descent and ascent (1 Thessalonians 4.16) is almost certainly to be taken in the same way, as a vivid metaphorical description of the wider reality he describes at more length in Romans and 1 Corinthians.

Does this mean abandoning belief in the “second coming”? Certainly not. It means taking seriously the whole biblical picture, instead of highlighting, and misinterpreting, one part of it. The problem has been, in [43] the last two centuries in particular, that certain texts have been read from within the worldview of dualistic apocalypticism, and have thus produced a less than fully biblical picture, with Jesus flying around like a spaceman and the physical world being destroyed. And if we really suppose – as, alas, many seem to – that this will be the meaning of the Millennium, we will miss the point entirely. Rather, the Bible points to God’s new world, where heaven and earth are fully integrated at last, and whose central feature is the personal, loving and healing presence of Jesus himself, the living embodiment of the one true God as well as the prototype of full, liberated humanity. When we talk about Jesus’ “coming”, the reality to which we point is his personal presence within God’s new creation.

The present challenge of future hope

What then is the challenge of God’s future for the present? How do we rightly interpret, and re-appropriate, the apocalyptic hope?

The proper way of interpreting the great biblical hope is to see the present work of healing and liberation, the accomplishment of salvation at every level, as the bridge between what happened in Jesus and what will happen at the end. Deeds that truly embody justice, mercy, hope [44] and freedom in the present are signposts pointing back to Jesus’ resurrection, the ground of hope, and on to God’s future, to the final presence of Jesus, the fulfillment of hope. The task, for those grasped by this vision, is so to act in the present that only apocalyptic language will do justice to the reality that is unfolding before us.

How, after all, can we begin to describe the full significance of what we are doing, when we plant a tree in a devastated landscape, dig a well in a desert, give hope and love to an abandoned child, or campaign for an end to war? Only poetry, art and music can begin to do justice to such things; the flat one-dimensional language of ordinary post-Enlightenment analysis into economic or political forces will remain earthbound. Like our biblical forebears, we need to rediscover the many dimensions available to us for describing what look like this-worldly events and investing them with their heavenly significance. We need to rediscover, for our own age, how to write today’s equivalent of truly apocalyptic language: language that will speak of earth and resonate with the music of heaven.

This challenge, and this new emerging set of possibilities, takes a particular form within Western culture at this very moment. One of the features of our present sense of fin de si è cle , of great crisis and transition, is [45] that the dreams our culture cherished for two hundred years or more have let us down. The so-called “modern” world has been challenged in the name of something calling itself “postmodernity”. end quote

Also ref:
Resurrection still future

I begin at the end. The bodily resurrection is still in the future for everyone except Jesus. Paul is quite clear in 1 Corinthians 15.23: Christ is raised as the first-fruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ will be raised as he has been raised. The ‘coming’ of which Paul speaks has not yet happened; therefore, clearly, the dead in Christ have not yet been raised. This is actually the official view of all mainstream orthodox theologians, Catholic and Protestant, except for those who think that after death we pass at once into an eternity in which all moments are present — a quite popular view but one which contains many serious difficulties. I do not know whether Paul knew about the strange risings from the dead reported in Matthew 27.52-3, but had he done so he would certainly have seen them as peculiar signs and foretastes, not people actually being transformed into the likeness of Christ as he predicts in passages like Philippians 3.20-21 and 1 Corinthians 15 itself. from


This is sooo predictable… which I noted previously WOULD be the case. What is really humorous is you quoting A.T. Robertson BUT TYPICALLY NOT following through with any consistency — he of course was absolutely right… Paul’s language IS hyperbolic OF the Roman empire, JUST AS Jesus’ statement in Mt 24:14 above was!

LK 2:1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.

world = Roman Empire i.e., the world as THEY knew it — just like Noah’s flood… it was regional.


You beat me up then post a post about the second coming but can’t verify the accuracy?


Well, Y2K did not happen.

But 70 AD DID.


Yeah, the way I roll. Don’t remember ‘beating you up’ though! I CAN verify the accuracy of the quote since I cut and pasted it; whether the quote is accurate as to the book, I dunno. If someone beats me up I’ll probably read the book.


Well yes he does… albeit of course from his degree of partial prêterism etc. You might find this interesting…

(underlined and bullet-point insertions mine)