the Spirit Watch
Unification Theology And The Cross of Christ
The Purpose of the Messiah
by Bryce Pettit, Centers For Apologetics Research
Messiah's First Advent
The scenario established by the Unification Church (UC) concerning the coming of Jesus Christ into the world conveniently avoids examining many relevant portions of Scripture on the subject. For example, the birth narratives recorded in Matthew and Luke are wholly lacking any serious consideration in their prominent literature. Could this be because of the message of the angel Gabriel to Mary in Luke 1:32-33, "He [Jesus] will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end"?
Also, at the time of Jesus' birth, the host of angels told the shepherds, "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord" (42). Jesus was born the Savior, the Messiah, he did not have to become the Messiah through perfecting himself, marrying the perfect woman, having sinless children and establishing the ideal nation and world (43).
Similarly, the incident with Simeon in the temple is also ignored in UC theology. According to Luke, Simeon was a righteous man who had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he saw the Lord's Messiah with his own eyes (44). Moved by the Spirit, Simeon went into the temple at the same time that Joseph and Mary brought Jesus for circumcision. He took Jesus from his mother's arms and sang a great song of hope for the salvation of Israel, astounding the child's parents.
His words to Mary are particularly important, "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own Soul too" (45). This is hardly language that lends itself to the UC position. In Luke 12:49-53, Jesus says he came to bring fire on the earth, and division, not peace. If he came to fulfill the UC scenario, why would Mary's soul be pierced as with a sword? Would she not rejoice at the salvation of Israel if her son were to bring the first perfect family to the earth? But if he would be obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:8), then the sorrow she would later feel would be that of any mother at the death of her son.
In Unification theology, Jesus was a man like any other man except that he was without original sin (46). Through some unspecified spiritual activity, Jesus had a special birth, but the Virgin Birth as taught by historic Christian orthodoxy has no place in their interpretation (47). They choose rather to emphasize that God works through the usual laws of nature, and understand that Jesus did in fact have a human father (48) UC theologian Young Oon Kim even suggests that Jesus' biological father might have been Zechariah (49)!
Furthermore, the deity of Christ Jesus is denied by the UC and a semi-Arian christology is offered in its place. The argument, simply stated, is that since the Bible says Jesus was a man, then he could not have been God. If Jesus were God then he could not have been tempted, gotten hungry, or been killed on the cross. DP even says, "In like manner, Jesus, being one body with God, may be called a second God (image of God), but he can by no means be God Himself" (50).
For years, Evangelicals and other Christians who believe in the deity of Christ have argued with skeptics, Jehovah's Witnesses, and others that when we affirm the deity of Jesus Christ we do not mean he is the Father or a second "God." Scripture and the creeds of the churches affirm that within the Godhead eternally exist three separate Persons of one divine substance. The Son of God, in his earthly life, was both God and man in one Person, especially as described in Philippians 2:5-1 1, a reference we would like to see the UC discuss in detail in light of the Principle.
It is one thing for the UC to say that it does not believe the traditional doctrine of the deity of Christ, but it is another to misrepresent those who do. This is an indication that Unificationists lack the sincerity to dialogue with us that Quebedeaux, Richardson, and others would like us to believe. If the UC is serious about dialogue, their writings could more accurately reflect our views rather than misrepresenting them and simply knocking down straw men (51). This is an unfair method of debate and is unworthy of people who claim to have Christian moral principles. If this language seems harsh, then perhaps it will help the UC to understand the anger and frustration Evangelicals feel when we try to dialogue with them, only to find that they have been educated to believe we believe things we have never taught.
The Cross of Christ
In Unification theology, the will of God was for Jesus to be accepted by the Jews so he could bring the Kingdom of God to earth through fulfilling the Three Blessings and establishing the Four Position Foundation. This novel interpretation of Jesus' mission has not been widely received among Christians of any persuasion, much less among Evangelicals. The UC feels that the Christian Church as a whole completely misunderstands the Bible. L4 says, "Christians today do not have a clear understanding of the truth behind the historic events that took place in Jesus' time." (52).
They think they have an unassailable argument in John 6:29: "Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'" If Jesus had come to die on the cross, then logically no one should have believed in him (53). Because he came to establish the Kingdom of God, then God's will was for the people to accept him and follow him, serving him as Messiah (54). Rev. Moon even goes so far as to say that if the cross was
God's will for Jesus, then Judas should be honored as a hero for making the crucifixion possible, adding,
Furthermore, if God had wanted His son to be crucified, He did not need 4.000 years to prepare the chosen people. He would have done better to send Jesus to a savage tribe, where he could have been killed even faster, and the will of God would have been realized more rapidly (55).
This attitude is an illustration of the logical fallacv of asking contrary-to-fact questions. The truth is that the death of Jesus is the only fact we have; what Jesus could have, should have, would have done is irrelevant speculation (56). The objection by Unificationist Jonathan Wells that "it's equally speculative to say that God wanted Jesus to die" is a red herring (57). None of the traditional verses marshalled by Evangelicals to illustrate that the cross was God's predestined plan are ever dealt with in Unification theology. The UC does not discuss such verses as Acts 2:23, 4:28, or Revelation 13:8 (58).
It should be noted here that DP includes a section dealing with Bible verses that speak as though Jesus' crucifixion were inevitable, but it only interacts with two verses (59). Neither of the verses they point to, Matthew 16:23 and John 19:30, are pivotal to the issue, though certainly they are important. L4 omits the discussion altogether. Outline of the Principle, Level 5 is in preparation, and we hope that the UC will consider the verses that we point to illustrating that Jesus died on the cross according to the Father's predetermined plan and foreknowledge.
If Jesus came to die on the cross, they ask, why did he pray for the cup to pass from him in the Garden of Gethsemane? Should he not have felt joy at being able to fulfill the Father's will? The UC says that we believe Jesus prayed in Gethsemane out of human weakness, and then they point to Stephen and other martyrs who gladly died for their faith. How could Jesus have been any less willing to die than these (60)?
Jesus was not simply a martyr. Peter says, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree" (61). Paul says, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us" (62). And certainly Isaiah 53:4-5 is relevant:
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
Christian martyrs such as Stephen often received divine comfort in their time of suffering, but Jesus was forsaken by God (63). The martyrs never carried the weight of the sins of the world, nor its sorrows - but Jesus did. His was not simply a tragic death. And although Gethsemane was a trial for the Son of God, Hebrews 12:2 says of Jesus, "who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame." When the UC asks the question, "But could Jesus Christ, the savior of mankind, utter any prayer out
of weakness?" (64) they forget Hebrews 4:15: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin."
A verse that comes out in almost any discussion of this subject with the UC is 1 Corinthians 2:8, which says, "None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." What the rulers failed to understand, the UC says, was that Jesus came to fulfill the purpose of creation and be their savior. This reasoning is a double-edged sword, however. In Korea I asked how the UC interprets the Pauline texts that seem to teach the cross as God's predestined plan, and I was told that Paul only knew the crucified Jesus, just like Christians today, and did not know that Jesus came to fulfill the purpose of creation (65). If Paul did not understand God's original plan, then 1 Corinthians 2:8 is contradictory to their interpretation. I believe the best understanding of this verse comes through considering Paul's opposition from those who considered themselves "wise" at Corinth. They had no room for a crucified savior either, but Paul demonstrates that the wisdom of God is not like our wisdom, and the crucified Jesus Christ is God's wisdom and God's power for our salvation (66). If he did understand God's dispensation, then Pauline texts such as Ephesians 1: 1-11 and Romans 1:1-5 must be taken into account in any discussion of God's will for the Messiah.
Basically, the UC uses 1 Corinthians 2:8 in conjunction with a number of other verses to argue that the Jews were ignorant of God's will and therefore failed to accept Jesus and serve him as the Messiah. Interestingly enough, the two main texts in DP, Matthew 23:37 and John 5:39-40, do not support the idea that ignorance was the problem! Matthew reports Jesus as saying plainly that the Jews "would not" come to him, not that they did not know who he was. John reports Jesus saying to the Pharisees and Sadducees, "you refuse to come to me to have life," not that they were ignorant of his identity. Romans 9:31-33 and I Peter 2:6-8 make it more evident that it was Jesus Christ himself who caused the Jews to "stumble." They were ignorant, but it was a willing ignorance because of a rebellious heart. Peter objected when Christ announced his imminent death in Jerusalem, and Jesus said he had in mind the things of man, and not the things of God (67).
How, then, are we to understand such statements as "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34)? Why did Peter say to the Jews, "Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders [in crucifying Jesus]" (Acts 3:18)? Two points need to be raised. First, the rejection of Jesus was prophesied, as Peter said in the next verse in Acts 3:19, "But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer." (68).
Secondly, John 3:19-20 makes it clear that the real problem was of the heart, and not simply blind ignorance.
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
The ignorance issue can best be explained by understanding God's true purpose for the Messiah. The Jews were expecting a warrior king like David to give them political deliverance and domination of the nations, but Jesus came as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world (69). This is why Paul says the preaching of the cross is a stumbling block to the Jews, but to all who are being called to salvation, "Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (70).
Salvation And The Second Coming
The UC makes no secret of the fact that it believes Jesus' death on the cross was "God's painful secondary dispensation necessitated by the faithlessness of the people of Israel" (71). If Jesus had been accepted by the Jews he would have accomplished complete salvation, meaning the forgiveness of sins and building the Kingdom of God on earth. All that was accomplished by the cross was spiritual salvation. Complete salvation would have precluded any need for a Second Coming. There would also have been no division between Christians and Jews. Christians would not have suffered nearly two thousand years of bloody persecution (72).
An emphasis of Unification theology, since Jesus only accomplished spiritual salvation, is that "God's victory was not the crucifixion, but Jesus' resurrection" (73). Other strong statements by the UC support this controversial teaching (note the above slide from an online Unification presentation of the Divine Principle). Unificationist Jonathan Wells calls the cross "a Satanic sacrifice" (74). The DP home study course says the cross was Satan's victory and a defeat for Jesus (75). What the UC emphasizes is a living sacrifice. They try to put more weight on Jesus' life of sacrifice, a sacrifice of heart, than his death (76). Why did Jesus say, "But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice... (Matt. 9:13), if the cross was God's way of salvation? Jesus was fully able to forgive sin before the cross (77).
Rev. Moon summarizes Unification thinking along this line when he says,
By his own words Jesus offered forgiveness. Even before Jesus shed one drop of blood there was already forgiveness from sin. No one had to wait for Jesus to die. There was this path to salvation in accepting the world [sic] of Jesus at that time. That's in the Bible. He did not give a rain check by saying, "l will forgive you and save you, but wait until I die on the cross." Jesus could open the way to salvation to everyone by the Word of God. God's plan of salvation does not require bloodshed by necessity (78).
We believe the Old Testament prophets promised not simply forgiveness of sins when Messiah comes, but a change in human nature (79) Hebrews 9:11-22 says Christ entered the Most Holy Place once for all by means of his own blood. The blood of the Old Testament sacrifices only made the worshippers ceremonially, or outwardly, clean, but the blood of Christ cleanses a person's conscience, their inner being (81).
For this reason he is the mediator of a new covenant, and "In the case of a will, it is necessary (82) to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living" (83). The writer then points out that Moses cleansed practically everything with blood under the old covenant, "and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (84). This is what we mean when we say we are heartbroken when we consider Jesus' death on the cross, but still believe it was necessary for our salvation. Without that sacrifice on the cross, no New Covenant could have come into effect.
Furthermore, the words of Hosea 6:6 quoted by Jesus about mercy are directed toward rebellious Jews and are not applied to the Messiah (85). Matthew 12:7 sheds light on this topic when Jesus expands what he said in 9:13, "If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent" (86).
The reason the cross is not viewed as a triumph by the UC is perhaps best expressed by Unificationist Franz Feige when he says, "Jesus' act of dying was not enough to reconcile God's heart to man" (87). We would point out first that Christ did triumph by his death on the cross, as Paul states, "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them, the cross"(88). He also wrote, "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross" (89).
Since everything has been vanquished by Christ, Rev. Moon could not have overcome billions of Satanic forces, winning a victory over them. They had already been defeated by Christ himself. In Matthew 28:18, Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given unto me." In Ephesians 6:10-20, Paul describes the full armor of God that is available to any Christian for defeating Satan's attacks. We also believe that not only did Christ's death on the cross reconcile our heart with God's heart, but that through Christ the entire created order will be restored (90). The question of when and how this will happen is what separates us.
Paul's teaching in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 on the ministry of reconciliation answers Feige's statement, for God "reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ" (91). He ends by stating, "God made him who
had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (92).
We believe that the last part of Hebrews 9 answers the question about the Second Coming: Jesus will return a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him" (93). The UC would not object to this, but they would interpret it as meaning that Messiah will return to complete salvation to those who are looking for him. They make a point of Luke 18:8b, "However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" They interpret this to mean that anyone with faith should be looking for the Lord of the Second Advent to serve him and help him usher in the Kingdom of God and bring physical salvation to all: "After meeting the Messiah, everyone should believe in him and serve him throughout their lives" (94).
The UC is quick to ask why sin is still in the world, and why are Christians still burdened with sin themselves, if Jesus accomplished complete salvation on the cross? (95) Hebrews 2:8-9 answers this question by saying, "In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus ..." Jesus suffered death so he might taste death for everyone. He shared our humanity, "so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil-and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death" (96) For this reason he could be a faithful and merciful high priest, "and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people " (97).
Notice that he had to be made like us. The language of the New Testament is replete with references to this effect. It does not speak of the death of Jesus that would happen if he were unsuccessful in his mission. Below
is a partial list of verses along this line:
Matt. 1:21 Jesus will (not might) save his people
Matt. 16:21 Jesus must go to Jerusalem and be killed
Matt. 26:54 Jesus' death must happen according to plan
Mk. 8:31 the Son of Man must suffer much and be killed
Mk. 9:12 the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected
Lk. 1:32-33 Jesus' kingdom will never end
Lk. 9:22 the Son of Man must suffer many things and die
Lk. 17:25 before the Kingdom of God can be established the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected
Lk. 22:22 the Son of Man would go to his death as it had been decreed
Jn. 3:14 the Son of Man must be lifted up (in his crucifixion)
Acts 17:3 Paul proved from the Scriptures that the Messiah had to suffer
Acts 26:22-23 Paul said nothing beyond what the Scriptures said would happen to the Messiah, that he would die
Rom. 5:6 at just the right time Christ died for us
Gal. 4:4 when the time had fully come God sent his Son
Two Kinds of Prophecy?
The final attempt by the UC to circumvent the cross as God's predetermined will is to pose two kinds of prophecy concerning the Messiah. This is because of their view of human responsibility: "Man can either accomplish his responsibility, as God wants him to do, or to the contrary, he can fail to accomplish it" (98). DP adds an additional note to this same thought,
". . . thus resulting in only one of the two possibilities being realized" (99)
But why only two possibilities? Why was it not also possible for the Jews to frustrate both kinds of prophecy? If the Jews failed to accept the Messiah and fulfill the primary will of God, why is it guaranteed that they would fulfill the alternative? This is the fallacy of the false dichotomy, i.e., assuming there are only two alternatives in a given situation. The UC has never established that only two responses were possible by the Jews, but has assumed this point from the beginning.
The reason for positing such an argument is to say that if the primary line of prophecy about the glorious appearing of the Messiah was not realized by Jesus, then they would have to wait for the Lord of the Second Advent to fulfill them. Therefore, "There must first appear on the earth the bride who can relieve the humiliated and grieving heart of Jesus before Christ as the bridegroom can come again-this time to complete his mission with his bride" (100). DP encourages its readers to "Establish direct rapport with God in spirit through ardent prayer and next, we must understand the truth through correct reading of the Bible" (101
This may sound like a spiritually sound method of knowing God's Word, but what is meant is spiritualism as the means of knowing God's will. DP says,
We have clarified the fact that Jesus did not come to die, but if we ask Jesus directly through spiritual communication, we can see the fact even more clearly. When direct rapport is impossible, we should seek the testimony of someone with such a gift in order to have the kind of faith that will entitle us to be the "bride," in order to receive the Messiah (102).
This is as far as the UC goes in presenting its case on prophecy. Evangelicals and other Christians have done painstaking work in this area that has no parallel in the UC. We can point to over 300 specific prophecies fulfilled by Jesus as the Messiah, the Lamb of God. Their only answer is to selectively fall back on higher biblical criticism in an attempt to discredit them. Is this an example of trying to have one's critical cake and eat it too? I am not trying to be facetious, but the UC needs to come to terms with the fact that it is not following the strict biblicism of DP. Only the future will tell us the outcome of this trend.
DP holds a similar position in explaining who caused the Jewish people to fail to believe in Jesus, laying the blame at the feet of John the Baptist. It was the Baptist's failure to follow Jesus and serve him that made it so
difficult for the Jews to believe in Jesus. If anyone is uncertain of this, DP says, "Any Christian who. in spiritual communication, can see John the Baptist directly in the spirit world will be able to understand the authenticity of all these things" (103). Since John is the one to blame for the failure of Jesus' mission, we should turn our attention to him.
Advent of the Messiah and Elijah
The UC teaches that the reason Jesus took the way of the cross was the doubt of John the Baptist and the resulting disbelief of the Jewish people. John was sent in the spirit and power of Elijah (104) to prepare the hearts of the Jewish people to receive the Messiah, but he failed to fulfill his mission (as another online Unification slide makes clear). Had he been faithful, Jesus would have been recognized as the Messiah and the people would have believed in him, which is what the UC points to as God's primary Will (105).
Rev. Moon is very clear on his understanding of this phenomenon: "There can be no doubt that John the Baptist was a man of failure. He was directly responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ" (106). Because of John's failure, Jesus was unable to win the support of the Jewish religious leaders and was forced to seek among the poor for disciples. In Unification thinking John should have influenced the upper levels of Jewish society in the way Quebedeaux describes Rev. Moon's efforts today DP teaches.
Actually, the disciples Jesus would have preferred were not people of this kind. Jesus, having come to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth was more in need of one person qualified to lead a thousand, than one thousand following him blindly (107).
The Scriptures paint a different picture altogether. John was not the toast of the religious community that the UC tries to portray him to be. In Matthew 3:7 he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to him for baptism. yet he said, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?" The implication is that it was not John. Luke 7:30 demonstrates a sharp demarcation between John and the religious leaders when it says. "But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected Gocl's purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John." But in 7:9 all the people, even the despised tax collectors, acknowledged Jesus because they had been baptized by John! Jesus did have followers among the religious leaders (101) and Jesus was happy that the hypocritical leaders did not receive the secrets of the kingdom.(109).
This view of John the Baptist is the hermeneutical key that Rev. Moon and the UC brings to the Bible. This interpretation is considered nothing less than divine revelation.
... You may want to ask me, "With what authority do you say these things [about John the Baptist]?" I spoke with Jesus Christ in the spirit world. And I spoke also with John the Baptist. This is my authority.
If you cannot at this time determine that my words are the truth. you will surely discover that they are in the course of time. These are hidden truths presented to you as new revelations. You have heard me speak from the Bible. If you believe the Bible you must believe what I am saying. (110)
DP calls this teaching a "heavenly secret," (111) and elsewhere Rev. Moon states that the reason no one before him has revealed this secret is that the Bible is a "coded" book that God meant to be "mysterious," to be understood only by his special agent (112). There is therefore a strong opposition to the Evangelical doctrines of the infallibility and perspicuity of Scripture in the UC (113). Rev. Moon says,
If you attempt to interpret the Bible literally, word for word, letter for letter, without understanding the nature of the coded message of the Bible, you are liable to make a great mistake.
Therefore, in this day, at this hour, what the Christian world needs is a revelation from God. God must reveal to us His plan; He must tell us His timetable, and give us instructions as to what to do at this time. . . . God has called me as His instrument, to reveal His message for His present-day dispensation, so that there may be a people prepared for the day of the Lord (114).
This apocalyptic urgency is woven into their account of Jesus and John the Baptist. In Unification thinking, the Jews of 2,000 years ago made the same mistake as Christians today. They believe we look at Acts 1:9 and think Jesus will return on the clouds. The Jews looked at 2 Kings 2: 11 and the prophecies of Daniel about the coming of the Son of Man and expected Elijah and the Messiah on the clouds of heaven. Because Jesus appeared on earth in the flesh, people had difficulty believing in him.
The UC says the same situation exists today with regard to the Lord of the Second Advent. Christians are looking up to see Christ return on clouds of glory rather than expecting him to come by a natural birth, as he did the first time. It is strongly hinted that he is Rev. Moon, but it takes the faith mentioned in Luke 18:8 to understand this.
The defense of the Unification understanding of John the Baptist and Elijah revolves primarily around Malachi 4:5: "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes." A formula is then inserted into the biblical material that works this way: the Jews were intensely looking for the Messiah, but because of this verse, they were expecting Elijah first. No Elijah, no Messiah."'
Since John the Baptist flatly denied being Elijah, (116) the Jews of that time had no idea that the Messiah was coming. When Jesus appeared on the scene he caused great confusion among the people. If Jesus were the Messiah, where was Elijah? Finally, Jesus' disciples got tired of this question and asked him directly why the scribes said Elijah must come first, and Jesus answered by saying that John the Baptist was this Elijah (117).
With John denying being Elijah, and Jesus saying that he was Elijah,
the Jewish people were in a dilemma. Whom would they believe? John had a background of a good family, an ascetic lifestyle and a respected reputation. He moved within the upper echelons of society, while Jesus fraternized with the lower classes and was even proud of it (118). Jesus was a poor, unknown carpenter who offended the Jewish leaders by claiming to be Lord of the Sabbath and placing himself on equal footing with God (119). Under these circumstances the Jews' who were faithful to God's Word in the Old Testament had no choice but to believe John and discount Jesus' claims to being the Messiah. No Elijah, no Messiah (120).
As reasonable as this argument sounds, it fails to consider many important factors. The first is popular Jewish expectations of the Messiah. It is true that manv people longed for Elijah, but as George Eldon Ladd demonstrates, there was also the belief that the Messiah would "suddenly"
appear in the temple (121) Is this why John confessed so freely that he was not the Messiah when the Jews in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to inquire of his identity? Why would it even cross John's mind to deny being the Messiah if Elijah had not first appeared?
Another point to consider is the Baptist's answers in John 1:19-28. R. C. H. Lenski points out that linguistically there is no contradiction between what John savs here and the words of Jesus in Matthew 11 and 17:
Perhaps something in the stern preaching of repentance by the Baptist. aided by his austere dress and mode of life, mav have prompted the surmise that this rabbinic expectation was fulfilled and that the Baptist actually was Elijah returned to life. In this sense the Baptist utters his denial: ouk eimi, "I am not," omitting any pointed ego, which would add the wrong implication: I am not, but another is or will be. The Baptist's denial, therefore, does not clash with what was promised regarding him in Luke 1:17, and with what Jesus afterward said of him in Matt.11:14; 17:11, three statements which correctly interpret Malachi (122).
Leon Morris adds an additional observation: "The increasing curtness of John's successive utterances should not be missed. It appears to stem from a dislike for answering questions about himself. He had come to bear witness
to Another" (123).
The positive statement made by John following the three negatives is also important. The delegation asked, "What do you say about yourself?" John 1:23 reads, "John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, 'I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" David Smith makes an important observation about this statement:
But John knew that, whatever might be the truth about the current expectation, he was no ancient prophet returned to life; and it evinces his absolute sincerity and his utter freedom from the frantic temper that he would not encourage a delusion in order to enhance his prestige and influence (124).
The UC seems to have missed this point altogether. When John heard
from prison of ta erga "the works," of Jesus, he sent some of his disciples to ask him if he were truly the Messiah. DP says, "Jesus, so questioned, answered indignantly, with an air of admonition (Matt. 11:4-10)," (125) and L4 says, "Jesus was indignant at such a question and answered quite 'judgmentally," (126) completely missing the reference Jesus was making to the prophetic words of Isaiah 35:4-6 and the fact that John was looking to Jesus for an answer.
R.C.H. Lenski comments that this proves John's faith in Jesus. If John were in disbelief he would hardly have asked the question of Jesus, and Jesus would hardly have replied with the answer he gave. Furthermore, John's question stemmed front a natural difficulty arising out of his preaching. He had testified that Jesus was the Messiah, (127) and he expected Jesus to perform all the great messianic works - both of grace (128) and judgment (129). However,
as Jesus carried out his work, it seemed to be nothing but grace without one single act of judgment. This is what perplexed the Baptist "when he heard in prison of the works of Christ." Where were the works of judgment, the swinging of the fan, the crashing blows of the ax? They were not being done. How, then, was this to be explained? Would another one follow, another who would perform these works of judgment? For we must remember that throughout the prophecies, just as in the Baptist's proclamation concerning Jesus, one feature is not revealed by God: the interval of time between the first coming with grace and mercv and the second coming with judgment. The prophetic Picture is without perspective as to time; grace and judgment are simply predicated, and the point of time when they will occur is left with God (Acts 1:7) (130).
Was John the complete failure that the UC teaches he was? Was he faithful for only a short time while God supernaturally manifested the identity of Jesus as the Messiah, only to fall into doubt and disbelief immediately afterward? (131) The early Christian Church did not seem to think so. All four Evangelists begin their account of Jesus' ministry with the ministry of John the Baptist (132). When Matthias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot, the apostles required that he had to have been with Jesus from the time of John's baptism (133). Both Peter and Paul introduce their accounts of Jesus' ministry with the reference to the baptism of John (134).
In Acts 19:4 Paul says, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to be] ieve in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." The phrase "believe in," pisteuo ein, was a uniquely Christian idiom not found in Greek literature as a whole or in the Septuagint. That Paul would employ it in describing the work of the Baptist is striking, for the Synoptics do not state directly that John asked his hearers to believe in the Coming One (135). The lack of a tradition in Acts of John the Baptist "failing" to follow and serve Jesus argues strongly against the Unification interpretation.
Also important is the observation in John 10:40-42. When the JewsThe Unification objection that the phrase in Matthew 11:11 about John, "yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he," was Jesus' criticism of John's unbelief causes no problem to our interpretation. As Oscar Cullmann has noted, Jesus was probably referring to himself as the one who is now greater than John (137). A similar problem is solved concerning the phrase at 11:12 about violence and the kingdom. Whether the verb biazetai, "is taken forcefully," is translated as a passive or middle voice in this verse is irrelevant. It would mean that "the kingdom itself 'comes forward powerfully' or 'is brought forward powerfully' by John and Jesus" (138). In either case, it has nothing to do with Jesus criticizing John the Baptist.
threatened to stone Jesus for blasphemy. he crossed the Jordan where John had first begun to baptize over two years earlier. "Here he staycd and many people came to him. They said, 'Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.' And in that place many believed in Jesus." This occurred long after John's "failure," and also after, according to the UC, Jesus learned he would have to take the way of the cross from Moses and Elijah (136).
42) Lk. 2:11.
43) DP, 147
44) Lk. 2:25, 26
45) Lk. 2:34-35
46) DP, 212.
47) John A. Sonneborn, Christian Tradition and Unification Theology Questions
and Answers,Q & A Series (New York: Holv Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1985), 25.
48) Young Oon Kim, An Introduction to Theologv (New York: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, 1983), 89.49) Kim, Christian Thought, 116.
50) DP, 211. Parenthetical text in original.
51) See Quebedeaux and Sawatsky, Dialogue, 145-146, for an interesting exchange on this point.
52) L4, 79.
53) See Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John: The New International Commentary on the New, Testament, general ed, F. F. Bruce (Grand Rapids: William
Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1971), 335-337, for an excellent discussion on "believing" in John's Gospel.
54) DP, 142-143; cf. L4, 79.
Moon. "Second Coming." 130.
56) I am indebted to Professor Kathleen McGovern Gaffney for this observation from her formal response to the lecture given by Dr. Andrew Wilson. "The Purpose of the Messiah," on 8 Feb. 1988 in Seoul, Korea, at the2'7th Interdenominational
Conference For Clergy, sponsored by the UC.
57) Quebedeaux and Sawatsky, Dialogue, 146.
58) Kim, Unification Theology.
59) DP, 151 - 152.
60) L4, 80l; cf. DP. 145.
61) 1 Pet. 2:24.
62) 2 Cor. 5:21; cf. Is. 53:12; Heb. 9:28; 1 Jn. 3:5.63) I believe this explanation for Mark 15:34 does the most justice to the text. William Lane makes an insightful comment along this linein The Gospel of Mark in The New International Commentary on the New Testament, general ed. F. F. Bruce (Grand Rapids: William B.Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974). 572-573:
The sharp edge of this word must not be blunted. Jesus' cry of dereliction is
theinevitable sequel to the horror which he experienced inthe Garden of Gethsemene. It must be understood in the perspective of the holv wrath of God and the character of sin which cuts the sinneroff from God (cf. Isa. 59:2). In responding to the call to the wilderness and identifying himself completely with sinners. Jesus offered himselfto bear the judgment of God upon human rebellion. Now on the cross he who had lived whollv for the Father experienced the full alienationfrom God which the judgment he had assumed entailed. His cry expresses the profound horror of separation from God. "Cursed is everyonewho hangs upon a cross" was a statement with which Jesus had long, been familiar. and in the manner of his death Jesus was cut off fromthe Father (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13, 2 Cor. 5:21).
64) L4. 80. Concerning, Jesus'
joy, see Jn. 15:11 and 17:13.
65) Dr. Andrea Wilson, "The Purpose of the Messiah." an address delivered at the 27th Interdenominational Conference for Clergy. on8 Feb. 1988.
66) 1 Cor. 1:18-3 1. See also Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians,
F. F. Bruce
(Grand Rapids: William B. EerdmansPublishing Co., 1987), 105-107.
67) Matthew 16:23.
68) Cf. Matt. 21:11:33-46; Mk. 12:1-12; Lk. 20:9-19 and also Matt. 26:31.
69) Jn. 1:29; Matt. 1:21; Mk. 10:45.
70) 1 Cor. 1: 1-3 24.
71) L4, 81.
72) Ibid. Paul says God reconciled the division between Gentiles and Jews by the blood of the cross (Eph. 2:11-22).
73) Ibid., 82; cf. Moon, "New Future," 109.
74) Quebedeaux and Sawatsky. Dialogue, 161.
75) The Divine Principle Home Study Course, 6 vols. (New York,: Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity. 1980),vol 2: Mission Of The Messiah: Why Christ Came and Why He Must Come Again, 30.76) Quebedeaux and Sawatsky,
77) Mark 2:5.
78) Moon, "Second Coming," 136, emphasis mine.
79) Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:26; cf. 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:15; 4:24.
80) Cf. Matt. 23:25-28.
81) Heb. 9:14 (cf. Jn. 7:38).
82) Emphasis mine.83) Verse 16.
84) Verse 22.
85) Cf. Mic. 6:6-8.
86) Cf. the parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matt. 18:21-35, especially v. 33
: " Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servantjust as I had on you?"
87) Quebedeaux and Sawatsky, Dialogue, 164.
88) Col. 2:15 (emphasis mine); cf. Matt. 28:18; 2 Cor. 2:14; Rev. 3:2 1.
89) Col. 1:19-20; cf. Eph. 2:16; Heb. 2:17.
90) Rom. 8:18-27.
91) Verses 18-19.
92) Verse 21.
93) Verse 28.
94) L4, 88: cf. DP, 152. Rev. Moon, of course, has the inside track for becoming
Lord of the Second Advent, but this has yet to be madepublic knowledge. Contrast this attitude with that of Jesus Christ, who came not "to be served, but to serve. and to give his life as a ransomfor many" (Matt. 20:28). On Jesus' servanthood, see Luke 12:37; 22:27; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:7. Leading Unification theologians such as YoungOon Kim, Anthony Guerra and Jonathan Wells resort to radical higher criticism of the New Testament to explain verses such as Matthew20:28 and Mark 10:45. (See Kim, Unification Theologv, 139-141, and Guerra, "The Will of God and the Crucifixion of Jesus," inUnification Theology in Comparative Perspectives [New York: Unification Theological Seminary, 1988], 87-103.) Interestingly enough,thev like to use this methodology to say that the necessity of Christ's death on the cross was read back into the Gospels by later generationsof Christians as a polemical device against Jewish opposition, but I wonder why they do not also apply this approach to the question ofJohn the Baptist? Many have felt that because of a rivalry between a sect of Baptists that survived John's death, the early church readdeprecatory material back into the Gospel narratives (like Matt. 11 and 17) to oppose their claims that John was actually the Messiah.See Floyd V. Filson, A NewTestament History: The Story of the Emerging Church (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1977), 59-61.
95) L4, 82-83; DP, 141-142, 148.
96) Verses 14 -15: cf. 1 Jn. 3:8.
97) Verse 17; cf. I Jn. 4:10.
98) L4. 83.
99) DP, 150.
100) Ibid., 152.
103) lbid, 163.
104) Lk. 1: 17.
105) Jn. 6:29.
106) Moon, "Second Coming," 128. In another place Moon says the three wise
men who came to worship Jesus were supposed to groom himfor the position of Messiah, but they, too, failed him (Sun Myung Moon, A Prophet Speaks Today, ed. W. Farley Jones [New York:HSA-UWC Publications, 1974], 138). Durwood Foster asks a probing question about this point, in "Unification and Traditional Christology:An Unresolved Relationship," in Ten Theologians Respond to the Unification Church, ed. Herbert Richardson (New York: The Rose ofSharon Press, 1981), 193:
Why pick out the Baptist so egregiously? What about Judas, or Mary. or Peter. or oneself? A valid insight can be forfeited if overdrawn.This is not to deny that Divine Principle, with its frequent flashes of historical intuition. can make us more sharply aware of a lack ofcoordination between John and Jesus. But the fundamental principle of the human "portion of responsibility." anchored in Christ's ownreal humanity and distributed through the whole web of his interpersonal relations would be obfuscated by individual scapegoating.
107) DP, 160.
108) Jn. 12:42.
109) Matt. 11:25-26; 13:11.
110) Moon. "Second Corning," 128-129.111) DP, 163. Cf. Young Oon Kim, The Types of Modern Theology (New York:
Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of WorldChristianity, 1983). 265112) Moon, "New Future," 83-85.
113) Kim, The Types of Modern Theology, 265114) Moon, "New Future," 86.
115) L4, 85.
116) Jn. 1:21.
117) Matt. 11:14: 17:13.
118) Lk. 7:44-50; Matt. 26:7-13.
119) Matt. 12:1 8: Jn. 14:9.
120) DP, 154-157: cf. L4, 84-85.
121) Mal. 3: 1. George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New, Testament (Grand Rapids:
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 139.
122) R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel (Columbus, Ohio:
Lutheran Book Concern, 1942), 110, emphasis his.
123) Morris, John, 136.124) David Smith, The Days of His Flesh: The Earthly Life of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ
(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976), 43.
125) DP, 159.
126) L4, 88.
127) Jn. 1:33-34.128) Matt. 3: 11.
129) Matt. 3:12.
130) R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel (Columbus, Ohio: The Wartburg Press. 1943). 426-427.
131) DP, 158. The Divine Principle Study Guide (Tarrytown, N.Y.: The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity,
132) Matt. 3:1-12; Mk. 1:2-8; Lk. 3:1-20; Jn. 1:6-8; 3:23-30
133) Acts 1:12-26
134) Acts 10:37; 13:24-25
135) F.F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, in The New International Commentary on the New Testament, general ed. F.F. Bruce (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979).
136) See George E. Croscup, Historical Charts of the Life and Ministry of Christ with an Outline Harmony of the Gospels, introduction by Matthew B. Riddle (Philadelphia: The Sunday School Times Co., 1902), 13-23.
137) Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, rev. ed., trans. by Shirley C. Guthrie and Charles A.M. Hall (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1963), 32.
138) Lenski, Matthew, 437.