Why This Book Review Is The Most Important Article I Have Ever Written

Posted on February 11, 2011

22



I have been a Christian for almost 18 years, and I can tell you that I have not known the meaning of the gospel until very recently.  That might sound a bit shocking to you, but unfortunately, I am convinced that is the norm for most people who name the name of Jesus Christ in Christendom.  The tragedy is, the more time & training we have had in our current system, the less we probably understand why the good news is actually good.

Yes I loved Jesus, but only to the very limited degree that I knew He loved me. Yes, I could have told you that Jesus is the Son of God who took the sin of the world on His back to save us.  Yes, I could have told you that He died and rose again.  Yes, I could even have told you that He did this for His own glory.

But in my heart, I did not know the whole story.  I did not know how good, how jaw dropping, how mesmerizing, how infatuating, how heart melting, how stunning, how humbling, how captivating, and how amazingly good this good news (gospel) really is!  I thought I knew, but I simply had no idea.

I recently re-watched a movie that I had watched years before.  I knew it was a good movie before, but the first time I watched the movie, I only saw bits and pieces of it because I was distracted.  I missed the beginning of the movie, I saw a good portion of the middle, and I saw a bit of the end.  It seemed pretty good and others explained the premise of the movie to me as well.  As a result, I assumed that I knew how good the movie was.  Well, I was wrong!  Like I mentioned, I recently re-watched that movie, but this time I was not distracted.  I started from the beginning of the movie and stayed with it until the very end.  I was stunned!  Even though I thought I understood the movie before, I realized that it was richer and deeper than I remembered.  It was really, really good.  Knowing the whole story makes a big difference!

Like the movie that I recently re-watched, I have had the privilege of re-watching the gospel, so to speak, from the beginning, throughout the middle, and to the end!  Wow, let me just say that I had no idea what I was dealing with.  The gospel is really good news!  As a matter of fact, it is so much better than I originally thought.

As you may know, this good news is a threat to the world’s system.  This good news is so very good, that our enemy brings a very subtle attack against the good news by filtering it through man’s religious system.  This was the case in Jesus’ day with Judaism, and this is also the case today.  Yes some truth could be found in the religious system during Jesus’ day, but when the embodiment of truth came, they couldn’t recognize Him (Jesus).  They lost sight of the big picture even though they had the very scriptures that pointed to the big picture (Christ).  We’d be naive to think things have changed.

Scripture says that God speaks to us in these last days through His own Son (Hebrews 1).  How does His Son speak today?  He speaks through His own body.  We (the church) are Christ’s expression and body on the earth today.  We are His hands, His feet, and His mouth.  God has always been faithful to rise up members within His body to bring us back to the truth contained in the scriptures. He rises up people to bring us back to the foundational mystery of Christ.  This is the same mystery that the apostle Paul spoke of which has been kept hidden throughout generations, but is now being revealed through the church.  Nowhere is this mystery more hidden than in man’s religious system.  Our religious system does a good job of disguising this great news.

We desperately need help.

Throughout church history, God has called many within the body of Christ to have a ministry of writing & teaching that has greatly helped God’s people.  Out of my love for you, I want to tell you about a book written by a fellow brother in Christ that has helped point me to the eternal purpose of God contained in the scriptures more than anything else I have ever read in my Christian life.  I have read many great books that have greatly benefitted my understanding of the Lord.  I have a theological / ministry degree from a large Christian University as well, yet nothing has come even remotely close to this book in regards to the rich profound scriptural truth of God’s eternal purpose that is contained within this book.  If I could only recommend one book written by a fellow brother in Christ, it would be this book:

From Eternity To Here; (Rediscovering The Ageless Purpose Of God) by Frank Viola.

First, let me say this…the things shared in this book do not originate with Viola.  In this book, Viola is quick to point out that he is simply building upon things he learned from many others who have plowed the ground before him such as T. Austin-Sparks, Stephen Kaung, Watchman Nee, DeVern Fromke, and other Eastern Church Fathers just to name a few.  He lists them all in an extensive bibliography in the back of the book.  Ultimately, these truths come from the revelation of Jesus Christ hidden & revealed throughout the scriptures.

One reason that I believe this book is a vital read for all western Christians is because knowing God’s eternal purpose is essential if we are truly to get on board with it.  Upon reading this book, I was stunned to find out just how much of the good news (gospel) there is that I never knew or understood.  How can we be about His purposes if we do not know what His purpose really is?

Because of the importance of the content of this book, I would like to do an important book review of From Eternity To Here for you.  There are 3 parts to this book.  I will review each part of the book in 3 separate blogs over the next 3 days.  Please stay with me for the next few days as I review this book.  Today’s blog will deal with part 1 of Viola’s book.  It is truly stunning and essential for us to grasp!

From Eternity To Here- Part I

A Forgotten Woman: The Bride Of Christ

Like I mentioned, if you don’t watch a movie from the beginning, you could very well miss the main point of the movie.  In this first part of the book, Viola makes a very compelling argument that that is exactly what has occurred with our modern day ‘gospel’ which most of us have heard.  We have missed the beginning of the story, and thus have missed the point of the gospel itself.

Frank goes to great efforts in this first part of the book to remind us that the scriptures start in Genesis 1, not Genesis 3.  That is a huge difference!  Most of us have heard the gospel told from the perspective of Genesis 3 and the fall of mankind as the starting point.  We think of Adam and Eve sinning, God bringing the Law, and then Christ eventually coming to clean up our mess, so to speak.  This first chapter goes into great detail reminding us that God created an un-fallen man however.  Since mankind was created in God’s image, we can find out a lot about the heart of God by looking at this un-fallen man.

Adam lacked nothing in the garden before the fall.  He had the protection and beauty of the garden.  He had all the provision He could want.  He had a plethora of trees to eat from.  He had fellowship with God as well.  He had everything he needed for life.  One thing that Adam didn’t have, however, was a similar counterpart that he could relate to and lavish his love upon.  He was alone, and God saw that it was not good for man to be alone.

Frank makes the stunning assessment that Adam carried a frustration that reflected the very same frustration that God carried in Himself. God lacks nothing, yet from eternity past God the Son has always carried a desire to have a counterpart that was not Him, but like Him in whom He could lavish the amazing life and love which He experienced within the Godhead upon.  God Himself desired a bride from the very beginning to be united to and to love.  Like His maker, Adam carried the very same desire for a bride.

As a result, eve was taken out of Adam.  Eve was a beautiful counterpart to Adam.  She was not Adam, but she was taken from Adam and was like Adam.  After Eve was taken out of him, the two were united together and become one flesh.  As a result, Adam was able to know and love her deeply.  Remember, all this happened before the fall!

A major point that Viola makes in the first part of the book is the fact that like everything else in the scriptures, the love story between Adam & Eve is a picture of a greater reality that is fulfilled in Christ.  When Christ comes on the scene, He comes seeking a bride!  He came to do more than just pay for our sins, although He certainly did that.  This desire for a counterpart goes all the way back to eternity past in the Trinity before sin existed.

God the Son has always desired a bride as an outlet for the life and love He received from His Father.  Just like Eve was taken out of Adam, scripture says we were placed within Christ before the foundations of the world!  Christ is called the second Adam.  Just as Adam was placed in a deep sleep and Eve taken from Adam, in a similar way, Christ was put to death and His bride was taken out of Him.  After the resurrection, the bride of Christ, the church, was born.

In short, Viola brings our attention to the stunning analogy from the scriptures that just as Christ is the new Adam, we the church, are the new Eve!  As Adam & Eve represent the old humanity, Christ and His Bride represent the new redeemed humanity!  The two have become unified and made into one new man!  Understanding these concepts gave me a new understanding of numerous passages of scripture that I had read many times before, yet seemed to miss their essence.  This scripture is a beautiful example:

“for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHERAND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” (Eph. 5:29-32)

This beautiful picture of a bridegroom joining together with a bride was not simply God’s idea of dealing with mankind’s sin problem, rather it reflects the very heart of God’s desire for a wife that forever existed in His heart in eternity past.  Obviously, this incredible love story started before Genesis 3.

What a glorious lover our God is!

To illustrate to you just how profound the shift in my understanding of the good news (gospel) has been as a result of reading this book, I’d like to leave you with an analogy regarding the Cinderella fairy tale.  I’m going to assume that you are familiar with the story of Cinderella.  There are three different vantage points in the story that I’d like to describe.

First, there is the vantage point of Cinderella’s father.  He loved her.  He knew her before tragedy struck.  He loved her and wanted what was best for her. She was His precious little daughter.

Second, there is the vantage point of the handsome prince.  In His eyes, he could see Cinderella’s beauty.  He did not see her in her current position as a poor slave girl. She was stunning to Him.  He could relate to her.  He imagined marrying her and living together with her forever.  His separation from her broke his heart.  He began an all out quest to find her and he would do whatever it would take to find her and bring her back to His house so they could be together.  He would pay any price.  No one loved Cinderella like that.  She was used to a lifestyle of abuse and slavery.

Third, there is the vantage point of the wicked stepmother.  To her, Cinderella was worthless and a burden that never measured up to the correct standards.  No matter how hard Cinderella tried, she would never be accepted by her stepmother.  The stepmother’s goal was not to accept Cinderella, but to condemn her and keep her in her current state as a slave.  If the story of Cinderella could be told from the step mother’s vantage point, it may sound something like this:

Cinderella never measured up.  She was a burden to me and my family. She never appreciated me.  She is worthless and she doesn’t deserve the love of the royal prince.  She should count her blessings that she was rescued by that prince, because at the end of the day, she is just an ungrateful little slave girl who deserves nothing. I don’t care that she is married to the royal prince. To me, she will always be an ungrateful, undeserving little slave girl.  Yes the prince is amazing, but Cinderella is not in His league. She should be reminded that she is nothing more than a poor slave. She is not royalty like the prince.

If the prince could tell the story, maybe it would sound like this:

My Father loved me and wanted me to be married.  A great effort was made to find a wife for me. I found the perfect woman! She is beautiful and stunning. Her life was marked by tragedy however.  She became a slave in someone else’s house.  She needed to be rescued.  I did whatever it would take to find her and rescue her.  That is what I did.  Once I found her, I got her a new wardrobe that matches her new life of royalty.  You should see her now. Wow! She is stunning!  I took her back to my home in my father’s palace.  We will never be separated again.  My heart is filled with love for her, and I will give her all the love that is in my heart.  I will hold nothing back from her.  All the love, majesty, and royalty that my father has given me, I will give to her!

The beautiful story of Cinderella can be profoundly different depending upon which vantage point we are coming from.  Here is a vital point that Viola’s book helped me to understand;

Most of what is called the ‘gospel’ today is like the story of Cinderella being told from the wicked stepmother’s perspective.

This is precisely because we begin the story with the wrong starting point.  Before the fall in Genesis 3, there is something beautiful that we need to see that we have not seen.  We were placed ‘in Christ’ well before Genesis 3!

Cinderella is like the story of you and me. As I read the first part of Viola’s book, my heart began to break.  I realized I had bought into the wrong perspective.  I saw myself, and the rest of the bride of Christ, through the lens of religious condemnation.  A lot of this had to do with the many years that I looked at this story through an institutional perspective.  As my perspective began to shift, something down right incredible began to happen!  I began to see myself, and the rest of the bride of Christ from a whole new perspective.  Basically, I began to see Cinderella (myself & the church) from the handsome prince’s perspective, and not the wicked stepmother’s perspective!

I began to realize that we, as the bride and body of the Son of God, are greatly treasured and loved.  We have now been placed inside the Son of God.  We are one with Him!  I began to get a glimpse of how benevolent of a prince we have.  Not only did I begin to see myself and the bride of Christ from the handsome prince’s vantage point, I also began to see the handsome prince (Jesus) from Cinderella’s perspective!

Can you imagine how Cinderella saw the handsome prince?  I’m sure she was infatuated with him.  She was probably drunk with love over him.  He searched for and went to great lengths to rescue her.  He was the best thing that ever happened to her.  That is how I began to see Jesus.  I was falling in love all over again.  I kept saying to myself as I read the book;

“Wow, this really is good news, how did I miss it!”

I speak from experience when I say that seeing Jesus from the wicked stepmother’s perspective (religion) will not produce infatuation, but seeing Jesus from Cinderella’s perspective will cause us to fall head over heels in love with Him.  We will love Him with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind, and with all of our strength.

After seeing the story from the prince’s & Cinderella’s perspective, I never want to see the greatest love story told from the wicked stepmother’s perspective again.

The only bad news about the good news is if we miss the good news.  Contrary to religious opinion, there is not a shred of bad news in the good news.

If this were the only part of Viola’s book, I would wholeheartedly recommend it to you.  There is more however.  There are two more stunning parts of this book that bring out other vital truths from the scriptures about God’s eternal purpose that are unknown to most of institutional Christianity.  I will talk about the following two parts of this book in the next two blog posts.

I hope you will stay tuned, and I hope you will also consider getting a copy of the book for yourself as I have hardly touched the surface in this posting.  Here is a link where you can get a copy:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1434768708?tag=reimagchurch-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=1434768708&adid=1XBJ2S6S5YFFZHPEY1XY&

For the building up of His church,

Jamal Jivanjee

Advertisements