The gospels say that a miracle healing man called Jesus Christ lived. They say he died by crucifixion and three days later he rose again. The tomb he was placed in was found wide open with the stone that had been across the entrance moved back and the tomb was mysteriously empty. His body was gone. Certain witnesses claimed that Jesus appeared to them as a resurrected being.
We know that in the pagan mysteries they had Gods you could pray to. But in mystical rites you could actually become one person with the God. The ancients had a different idea of person to what we have. You could be a separate person from a God and still be the God. You could be the God and appear to yourself in the rites of the mysteries. We see nothing in the New Testament to indicate that the early believers in Jesus, thought of Jesus as a person separate from the Church. Jesus could have been a pantheistic deity that rose again in his Church. The Church could be his resurrection.
In the Second Epistle of John, chapter 7, in the Bible we read that if anybody says that Christ has not come in the flesh that such a person is the substitute Christ, the antichrist. Antichrist means in place of Christ rather than against Christ. How could each of these teachers be the substitute Christ unless these people were saying that there was no such man as Christ and that Christ was the Church?
Today all Christians believe that the holy dead and the evil dead with both rise again. But in Romans chapter 11, the apostle Paul states that the Jews have rejected the gospel and if they accept it instead he asks what this will mean. He answers that it means nothing less then a resurrection from the dead. Christians say he means a good resurrection from the dead. If they turn to Jesus they will rise again in glory and as saints. But he doesn't say anything about such a resurrection here. He just says resurrection. He was saying that those who die in evil or unbelief will not be resurrected from the dead. Some scholars are tempted at this point to argue that he did believe good and bad would rise again from the dead but that he was talking about another resurrection here. They say he meant the resurrection from dead sinner to living disciple of Jesus that takes place when God cleanses one from all sin. Then why didn't he say that and be clear? Is it possible that the resurrection he means is Jesus rising from the dead not by himself but in his Church like one of the pantheistic style deities of mystical paganism?
In Galatians 3:8 and 3:16 Paul says that the promise God made to Abraham's seed in the Book of Genesis refers to a single seed which is Christ. The Genesis text has seeds. Paul actually says it does not say seeds but seed. This was a blatant lie or is there another possibility? The Church members could be described as seeds when looked at from one perspective. When looked at from another, they are one seed Jesus Christ. Paul reasons in 1 Corinthians 15 that since Jesus has risen all people will rise again. His thinking is that what is true of the representative is true of those represented at least in this case. That could only be if the Church somehow is Jesus. Only then can what is true of one be true of the other.
Paul says that he has been sent to the pagans as their apostle and the purpose of this is so that they will convert to Jesus and that the Jewish people might get jealous of their faith and holiness and join the Jesus faith themselves (Romans 11). There was much holiness among the Jews. The Jews didn't like the Christian faith for it wasn't nationalistic and didn't care much for Israel's liberation from Rome. Everybody admits that Christian Jews still kept the Law and Paul encouraged this. What would Jews over the world be envious of a few pagan believers in Rome for? The believers were hardly on reality television either. Why didn't Jesus do what Paul did? Does it make sense that a saviour would spend all his ministry among scoffers when he could get a better reception from the pagans?
If the gospels are true about Jesus, there is absolutely no way the Jews would have been envious for Jesus and the Jews saw eye to eye on very little and he vomited on their Jewish traditions. The gospels are full of Jesus' attempts to have a ministry independent of theirs and his battles with the Jewish religion. The gospels say he was so hated that the Jews even went to the detested Pilate and urged him to crucify him though crucifixion was such an abomination in the Jewish religion and desecrated the land which was blessed by God.
Paul wrote, “Now I rejoice in the midst of my sufferings on your behalf. And in my own person I am making up whatever is still lacking and remains to be completed of Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His body which is the Church. In it I became a minister in accordance with the divine stewardship which was entrusted to me for you, to make the Word of God fully known. The mystery of which was hidden for ages and generations [from angels and men], but is now revealed to His holy people. To whom God was pleased to make known how great for the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ within and among you, the Hope of [realizing the] glory” (Colossians 1:24-27).
The mystery then is the presence of Jesus in his Church. In the mystery religions, the main mystery was how the God could be one with his people. The mystery is being revealed to his holy people, this means they experience the Christ within. The word mystery is used with the secondary but no less significant meaning of secret. God wanted to keep it secret because it was something very extraordinary and shocking. The only thing shocking about this when the Bible has never had a problem with angels being present and even appearing and invisibly protecting God’s people could be that Jesus is the Church. What else could it be?
Each member of the Church is the same person though separate in some respects as Jesus Christ. We find this to be taught in 1 Corinthians 6:15-20). There Paul tells the believers of Corinth that their bodies are parts of Christ’s body so it makes sense not to unite a part of Christ with a prostitute. He wrote that he who unites with Christ becomes one spirit with him. All this unmistakably literal. If you are only symbolically part of the body of Jesus Christ then it would not follow that you shouldn’t become one with a prostitute.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 we read that the believers are members of the body of Christ. God has arranged it so that there are different parts which all need each other to be a body. For example, the ear should not assume that because it is not an eye it belongs less to the body. That is why the Church must all suffer if one member suffers and must rejoice if one member is honoured. The members are all equally valuable and even the weak ones are indispensable.
Romans 12:4,5 says that believers are all members of one body in Christ and individually members of one another. So they are not only members of Christ but of one another. The body belongs to Paul, Peter, and whoever else was a follower of Jesus in those days as much as it does Jesus. This shows clearly that the Church and Jesus are one and the same person. Jesus rose from the dead in his Church not as man.
The fact that God could make a body that was just a head and self-sufficient shows the weakness in Paul’s logic about the body. The angels didn’t have bodies at all and yet Jesus was thought to be in them and they were part of the Church too. Why was Paul so silly then when he must have seen through it? The reason was that the Church was the resurrection body of Jesus Christ. To get people to believe his lie about the resurrection he had to ignore the foolishness of his doctrine of the body.
Is the body just a metaphor for the Church being intimately united in Christ? No. It could be literal for pagan theologies had literal parallels. He was writing to ex-pagans who were pining for their paganism back so he would not have talked so literally to them unless he meant to be literal. In addition, he definitely stated that he did not mean it as a metaphor.
Not surprisingly Paul claims to be Jesus Christ. He would not have done this had he not meant it for otherwise it would have been grave disrespect. He said he was crucified when Jesus was and that he no longer lived but Jesus lived in his place (Galatians 2:20). He told his followers to follow him the way he follows Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1). Reverence would require him to say that they should follow Jesus as he does.
When the resurrection of Jesus was in his Church it follows that the visions of the risen Jesus were parables for getting that message across. Possibly if you could have a perception like a daydream that Jesus was appearing to you that was a valid experience as long as it changed your life and confirmed that the Church was Jesus Christ. Where does the crucifixion come into this? Jesus was crucified but not by nails but by sins. He died destroyed our evil natures and rose again in us to give us new natures.
The Greeks saw the body as an island that interacts with other islands. It is John and not Pete. Paul would have accepted the traditional Hebrew view that a body is not like this but is a communion with other people. In other words, you are your family (page 89, The First Easter). This is silly I know but that is how they thought and Buddhists often think in the same way (page 97, The First Easter). Paul’s doctrine of the Church members being one body and part of the body of Christ proves he thought like them for the community being the body of Jesus Christ is not a metaphor but a fact according to the theology of Paul (page 66, The First Easter). In 2 Corinthians 4:10 we are told that we carry the death of Jesus in our bodies so that the life of Jesus may be seen. This text tells the Church to show the resurrection by being the resurrected Saviour.
Paul said that the body is a member of Jesus Christ a part of his body so that was why it would be so terrible for a Christian to have sex with a prostitute (1 Corinthians 6:14-20). He did mean all this literally. He went as far as to write that the body is not made for fornication but for the Lord and the Lord for the body (v 13). He then went on to say that just as God raised the Lord from the dead so he will raise us up too. So the Lord is Jesus. From the context he meant that the reason the Lord Jesus exists is for the body so that it can be raised from the dead. If Jesus died so that we could be forgiven and be given the grace to rise from the dead that does not mean that the body is for him. It would if he somehow becomes us. In that context, saying our bodies are for him and he is for the body makes sense.
Romans 12:5 says we are parts of Jesus’ body so we belong to one another. If Paul just meant that we are one family then why did he say body? The unity in a body is stronger than unity even in a family. Paul was too serious to exaggerate by saying body when he should have said family. It is not surprising that he is taken to be saying that the Church is the resurrection body of Jesus and that Jesus would cease to exist anymore without it (page 69, The First Easter). I would correct this to say that it would mean Jesus lost his body and would cease to be a resurrected person. He might be a spirit. If the Church is the risen Jesus then it follows that there was no need for visions or a missing tomb at all. All was necessary was a sense of communication with the Holy Spirit that Jesus was alive and physically the Church. When Jesus appeared it would then not have been as a vision but in a way that can only be described as a vision for it was the mystical experience that the Church was the risen Jesus through which he speaks and works and lives. Intellectually and spiritually it was a vision though there might never have been physical appearances of Jesus. “ Please read the Christian book, The First Easter, What Really Happened? HJ Richards, Collins/Fount Glasgow, 1980.
If the resurrection is the appearance of the Church then how can Paul say that if Christ has not risen then the dead are lost? Jesus being dead would not mean the dead are necessarily lost. It would if God can only save those who become Jesus and there is nothing to become. To say Jesus didn’t rise is to say the dead are lost because Jesus rising means being saved by becoming Jesus so that God is pleased with them.
So Jesus is the Church. The Church can break this union for example by sleeping with prostitutes so Jesus can lose parts but regain his completion by calling new members. What breaks away is not part of the body anymore. So this theology does not accept the criticism that since the Church sins the Church cannot be identified with Christ. Anyway, we are supposed to be righteous in Christ in the sight of God which means that God does not see our sins for Jesus has dealt with them.
The ancient doctrine of the Church being the only begotten Son of God has been revived in more recent times by the American based Church of the Living Word.
The possibility that Jesus for Paul was a pantheistic godling that was really the Church is an intriguing one. There is more evidence that Paul believed Christ and the Church were one and the same thing. He spoke very literally about this subject and without qualification. The Catholic Church proclaims the bread and wine of communion to be Jesus on less evidence and without any Bible statement that is as frank and direct as those that say Jesus is the Church and the Church is Jesus. 
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