Gen. James Green
D ESPITE THE CHURCH’S backsliding and the world’s advance into it’s territory, this is NO TIME to retreat! NO! It is time to ADVANCE into their territory— “Taking Jesus to All the world.”
And Other Greek Words
ORIGINALLY THE above Greek word was a nautical technical term (terminus technicus) meaning “to make headway in spite of blows;” one of the many nautical metaphors in Greek usage. It is understood by some that it is likely a derivation from the work of the smith who “with the blow” of his hammer “lengthens out” iron. Others believe it to mean, how I’m going to use it: “the movement of an army which advances…”
This is a popular etymological word meaning MOVING FORWARD on a road or battlefield.
πορκόπτω can also be used in the sense of “to promote,” “to further,” “to go ahead,” “to make progress,” and “to thrive.”
THE NOUN occurs for the first time in the Hellenistic period (see “The New Phrynichus” , p. 158—W.G. Rutherford). Philo also used it in a fixed verbal combination (Philo Leg. All. III, 165 etc.). Plutarchus, of Chaeronea (c. 50-120 AD) also used this word (Plut. Deprofectibus in virtue, 7 [II, 79b]). Josephus (Snt. 4, 59) used the noun to denote progress in evil, as did Paul in 2 Tim. 3:13 where he wrote: “But wicked men and imposters will go on from bad to worse…” (more on this later).
Polybius, of Megalopolis (c. 210-120 BC), 5, 16, 9 used the word as “progress.” There are just too many references/authors I could write about, but let us press on ➙➙➙
In one sense, both of these words are equivalent to “success,” and “fortune.” Also, “promotion” (in rank) was used by Flavius Josephus’ Bellum Judaicum, 2, 27; 6, 142: Rank, distinction, honor, regard—Jos. Ant. 20, 205. Special uses are for military success (see 2 Maccabees 8:8).
So these words were used for military, monetary, social, etc. success in everyday, non-literary Greek, and also in stoic philosophy (spiritual development). In the abstract too, προκοπή was used in the sense of “progress” in intellectual/moral educations (see Diogenes Laertius [3rd Cent.], IV, 50).
προκοπή can also denote the climax of (spiritual) development, i.e., “maturity.”
Both Heroclitus and Aristotle used it as the thesis of cosmic perfection (Stoicism). I’ll pass out of non-Biblical authors and get into the Bible itself.
The Old Testament
ACTUALLY, the Old Testament does not use “advance,” but the spirit is there historically. This progress is never called προκοπή, but the view of progressive salvation history varies.
The Old Testament was one of physical warfare; the New Testament is one of spiritual warfare. Both are gauged by “progress” and “advancement” over enemies. Both Testaments were (are) under “Divine Demand” or “Divine Command,” which necessarily impels them/us to ADVANCE.
Lev. 19:2 says:
“Say to all the assembly of the Israelites, ‘you shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.’”
At the same time, we have an ENEMY—SATAN!—who fights us in order to get us to progress/advance in wickedness. We, as Christians ought to know this already…but where, oh where is the ADVANCEMENT in maturity?
God’s holy prophets were always trying to get His people to move forward (spiritually, in obedience) (see Ex. 32:33-35).
God’s cloud and fire led the Israelites onward towards their goal—Canaan (Ex. 13:21, 22).
Directing itself by the program set forth in the Mosaic Law, the people of God were to ADVANCE towards that goal. Everything was orientated towards a future goal. With the prophets, also, all things/events followed a great plan towards a FINAL END. This goal is not reached, however, by unbroken fellowship/progress. It is attained by faithful OBEDIENCE—something that today’s backslidden, Hell-bound Church knows nothing about. One Bible professor once stated: “For the Old Testament, the history of the individual as well as that of the people is in movement from a whence to a whither.” Abraham was our model: he obeyed, he believed, and he pressed forward! But as time progressed, Israel’s resistance to obey proved disastrous over and over; but they were sometimes saved by God’s intervention and forgiveness.
In spite of these failures, the basic theological ideas of “advancement” (προκοπή) are evident—ad hoc. As we go thru our Bibles, we must pay close attention to context in order to see the spirit of ADVANCE!, e.g., Ex. 14:15: “And the LORD said unto Moses, ‘wherefore criest thou unto Me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go FORWARD.’”
The Hebrew word naca (naw-sah) means “start on a journey,” “go onward,” and “be on your way” (the Greek LXX-Septuagint uses “proceed”). The context makes it more probable that at least the translator and reader of the Greek text would think in terms of “progress” in παιδεία in v. 16: “…the children of Israel shall go on…through the midst of the sea.”
IF ONE CARES to follow this word group, the Septuagint and Symmachus, Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs, Epistle of Aristeas and Josephus are books to look at…προκοπή means “to progress” in both good and evil. We also run across “promotion,” “prosperity/fortune.” I realize these writings are not going to be read by your average Christian, but in them we find many nuances that all point to ADVANCE/ADVANCEMENT.
The spirit of the Old Testament and the New Testament is basically the struggle to overcome evil—inwardly and outwardly. As the Africans used to say when we were there teaching them: “Life is war!” This WAR is not limited to any one culture or people, it is universal. Both Biblical and non-Biblical writers speak of the constancy of battle—with times of relief—and perseverance towards a set goal or goals.
Those who read non-Biblical literature/study for understanding point to the definition of προκοπή in Leg. All., III, 249 (imperfect knowledge that needs to become perfect/mature).
προκοπή / πορκόπτω
AGAIN, the word “advance” is not found in the New Testament, but the spirit of these words is. Paul alludes to “progress” in Rom. 13:12: “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us PUT ON the armour of light.” He uses “furtherance of the Gospel” in Phil. 1:12; “…your furtherance” (v. 25). In Luke 2:52 we find: “And Jesus INCREASED in wisdom…” Paul uses “thy profiting” in 1 Tim. 4:15. In 2 Tim. 2:16 he uses “will increase unto more ungodliness;” “…they shall PROCEED no further,” 3:9; “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse,” i.e., proceed to v. 13. One could spend hours digging out words that correspond to our two Greek words.
Advance in Faith
ALTHOUGH THERE is only one faith (Eph. 4:5) which is the basis of salvation, the apostle Paul, like Christ, can speak of different measures and stages of faith: “For I say, through the grace given unto me…” (Rom. 12:3—Paul); “…verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel” (Mt. 8:10—Jesus; see also 15:28—Jesus; 17:20–Jesus; 1 Cor. 13:2, 7; 1 Thes. 3:10—Paul. See also “progress” and “growth” in faith: Lk. 17:5; 2 Cor. 10:15; 2 Thes. 1:3; Eph. 4:29 etc.).
Scholars are quick to point out that Phil. 1:12 is the counterpart of 1:25: “fallen out” vs. “abide and continue.” As Paul’s work/warfare serves the προκοπή of the life of faith of the Ekklesia, his suffering serves the προκοπή of the Gospel of Christ. Was he writing about his imprisonment?
The Gospel Advances
THE BIBLE does speak of the sufferings that Christians will face—even death—persecutions, assaults etc. Each one of us must choose to press forward despite all this. The Gospel advances by and through God’s frontline soldiers. It continues its victorious march through the enemy lines of the world (even through the hostile Churchianity lines) in spite of so few fighting the “good fight of faith.” You see, the power of God increases as we suffer; our faith is strengthened as we continue. Our faith in Christ can and will be made stronger when our fellow soldiers get captured, imprisoned etc. (Phil. 1:14). Paul wrote in v. 14 that: “…many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds (chains), are much more bold to speak the Word without fear”…his suffering became a “missionary impulse” so to speak.
Sin, The Enemy!
SIN IS OUR ENEMY (but you can’t tell this by today’s standards in Church la-la land)! Sin, like missiles/bombs, can literally destroy both men and works. Sin can bar/cut off communication between the field and Headquarters (it bars prayer). False teachers/preachers/prophets are enemies to deal with. They are a special ops (special operations) corps (Jude warns us of such persons, so does 2 Tim. 2:17, 18). Paul warns that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). Then Paul, with προκοπή in mind, says: “But CONTINUE thou in the things which thou hast learned…” (v. 14). The punning expression “deceived deceivers” is not just conventional here, it carries a full stress on both parts.
Paul’s warning—2 Tim. 2:16-3:13 is taken to be his answer to the claim of heretics that they were “progressive” / “aggressive” theologians! Churches are now plagued with such enemies of the truth, especially the Emergent church (get our booklet on this—free). Thank God that there is a limit to their attacks: “But they shall PROCEED no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was” (2 Tim. 3:9). But we all know that Paul had to combat their advancement. Hello—is anyone listening?
SO FAR, our two Greek words— προκοπή and πορκόπτω have both the present and eschatological in view— “present situation,” “in that day.” During the days of Isaiah, words like “watchman, what of the night?” (Isa. 21:11). “The watchman said, ‘The morning cometh, and also the night…’” (v. 12). Scholars claim these verses denote the ambivalent interim (intermediary stage) between the aeons which intersect in the still of the one and the NOT yet of the other…deep darkness holds sway just before the dawn…illustrating the mounting tribulation just before the end…it is TIME TO WAKE UP sleepers!!! Both Old Testament prophets and New Testament writers were aware of this (look up the words “awake” and “awakest”). Rom. 13:11; 1 Cor. 15:34 and Eph. 5:14 are WAKE UP calls.
So, my dear sleepy-heads called “Christian,” in this awareness of the progress of evil—its frontal advance, will you mount a counter-attack? In this “dirty war” there is no room for fancy ideas and cute slogans like: “God is crazy about you,” or “Have your best life now;” both have been coined by world-loving heretics. These are as remote from the New Testament, as light is from darkness....yet they make the Churchites feel warm and fuzzy. The New Testament (and Old Testament) is devoid of such appeasable sayings. They are cursory, amoral, skewed, transmogrifying.
I WOULD LIKE to end with Paul’s Phil. 3:14: “I PRESS toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” I think this verse combines both of our Greek words in one—διώκω and Heb. 6:1: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us GO ON unto perfection (maturity)…” —φέρω—Paul’s use of dioko (first Greek word, G1377) means “to pursue” a metaphor from the footrace (Phil. 3:12, 14), “speeding on earnestly” (as the Revised Version reads), and “I press on.” Phero (second, G5342) means “to bear,” “carry” (used in the Passive Voice in our text—Heb. 6:1), “let us…press on” (Revised Version, literally, “let us be borne on” (A.V. “go on”).
I am really fond of another Greek word—βιάζω, biazo, G971—found in Luke 16:16: “The law and the prophets were until John; since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man PRESSETH into it.” This Greek word is in the middle voice= “to PRESS VIOLENTLY” and “force one’s way into,” a meaning confirmed by the papyri (see Moulton and Milligan= “those who (try to) force their way in,” the verb suggests forceful endeavor).
The counterpart of Lk. 16:16 is Matt. 11:12. Since the Greek “presseth,” biazo, means “to press violently or force one’s way into,” Matt. 11:12 uses the words “violence” and “violent:” “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” Those who read this are stunned at these “harsh” words. Yet these same ones condone abortion (mass MURDER), and honor GLBTQs (sex-perverts who actually do murderous acts to each other). These very ones are the ones who shot us down for being aggressive (not violent!) enough to press into enemy lines with the Gospel of Christ. Yet they never view themselves as “enemies” of God whatsoever. Blind or simply rebellious?
Let’s examine what Matt. 11:12 means: “violence”—βιαστής, biastes, G973—“a forceful or violent man,” “to force,” “to be seized,” “violent,” and “a forcer, energetic.”
There are those who hold different views as to what Matt. 11:12 means. Some, e.g., Cremer (Lexicon) and Dalman (Words of Jesus, pp. 139), hold that the reference is to the antagonism of the enemies of the Kingdom, but Luke 16:16 (Middle Voice: R.V., “entereth violently”) indicates the meaning of violent opposition. The Interpreter’s Bible (Vol. 8, p. 288) claims that the Gospel traditions speak of the new age of God’s rule as a fact of present experience, not just an event of the last days. They say already that every one enters it violently, men participate in it…make every sacrifice, with no mention of political messianics (zealots).
Some suggest “enters it violently” in Lk. 16:16 refers to groups who believed the Kingdom of God would come by insurrection against the empire; perhaps the Gospel would attract shallow enthusiasts. Some believe that the “good news” captured conservative minds who thought the law would be revoked, thus allowing lawless men to enter. And another thought is that (I believe this) Jesus opened the gates of redemption/salvation to ALL; and godless men, women, and children, both repentant Jews and lost Gentiles were invited to “press” into the Kingdom. Actually, looking at the picture back in those days, prostitutes, publicans, murderers, thieves, and sinners of every sort poured thru the gate of salvation. Of course this really upset the (very) RELIGIOUS, for it violated their precious humanistic decorum of the “law” (which by then had extra traditions of men added to it).
Let us keep Jesus’ exhortations in Luke 9:59-62; 13:24, and 14:26 in mind. In Jesus’ day, there were those whom the “religious” deemed “violent in behavior.”
Matthew 11:12 Continued
FROM JOHN’S time till now, the Kingdom (i.e., the Christian movement/new Israel=born again believers) has been oppressed, and the oppressors are still ravaging it, so it is believed. True, with the gate of eternal salvation open to ALL, both blessings and persecutions came also. The “oppressors” (violent) were, I believe, both earthly rulers and demons—both working together to STOP this movement. Another thought, and it was certainly real in those days, is that the zealots (who wanted to make Jesus king) sought to seize this movement for their own benefit—to rid Israel of the Roman power.
They have tried to establish God’s sovereignty by forceful means before, and now by their forcefulness, they are ravaging it. But Jesus’ Kingdom is not to be built upon (physical) violence, but upon faith. This does not mean we’re out to be passive. NO. We’re to be aggressive, pressing, and ADVANCING INTO ENEMY TERRITORY WITH THE GOSPEL. Christ never died so we could build our denominational churches (and fight one another); He died in order that we could take the “good news” to those who only had the “bad news.” All this American “God and Country” stuff is an invention of zealous men. Fight wars in the name of God? Jesus? The nation? NO! We’re to fight the “good fight of faith” (2 Tim. 2:3, 4; 1 Tim. 6:12).
All one has to do is read the stories of revolts in first-century Palestine (see Josephus’ “Antiquities” 18.1.6; 20.5; 20.8.5-7, 10; Jewish War II.8.1;2.12.4; 2.13.2-7). These revolts took place during the early stages of the Christian Movement, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem, 70 AD. Even after this horrible destruction, the zealots tried several times to take back the city/land, but failed.
Rudolf Otto’s, “The Kingdom of God and the Son of Man” (1943; pp. 108-12) has a take on Matt. 11:12:
“From John’s time until now, the Kingdom is exercising its own spiritual force, and men of spiritual force are able to lay hold of it, for the law and the prophets were until John, but now the new age has come.” Here the verb βιάζεται is taken as a middle, not a passive. This brings out the contrast between the old and new.
All we can be sure of in all this is that the saying contrasted the previous age with the new and spoken of “violent power” in connection with the Kingdom of God. Some believe this to mean the Baptist’s ministry—he, they say, stormed Heaven with vehement zeal, spoke words of fire against the backslidden religious, as did Jesus, the New Testament writers, the church fathers…and we should—MUST!—continue to ADVANCE the message of Christ for this mess-age.
YES! The “new age” came in like an invasion. Jesus’ Storm Troopers were bold and aggressive! The Kingdom of God came upon the enemies of truth violently! The old age was not willing to give up the field of battle—the great persecution was on.
We can’t “advance” Christ’s Kingdom without some kind of (spiritual) violence. Look at today’s church: totally emasculated, feminized, passive, not persuasive, sin-sick, diseased, and totally repulsive to God and man. These starvation camps called “Churches” are full of pitifully languid souls who are sick and full of sin, dastards and bastards! What happened to the “aggressive”—“advance” spirit? Gone bye-bye!
The “Real” Kingdom of God
THIS SICK thing that passes itself off as God’s Church is a disgust!! The true nature of the Kingdom of God (or Heaven) carries the idea of God coming into the world to ASSERT HIS POWER, GLORY, and RIGHTS against the dominion of the god of this world—Satan (Eph. 2:2= “prince of the power of the air [Spirit]”)…to FREE men, women, and children from the grip of (spiritual) death. Actually it is more than salvation or building churches; it is God expressing Himself with POWER in all His works. In essence, the Kingdom of God is an aggressive assertion of Divine power in ACTION. His rule is not political (democratic or any other), but spiritual. That is, the Kingdom of God is not a religio-political theocracy; it is not a matter of social/political dominion over nations (although the U.S. would like it to be this!) or kingdoms (see Jn. 18:36). God does not intend to merely redeem and reform thru social/political activism, force, or any kind of violent action (Mt. 26:52—man tries this, see also Jn. 18:36:
“MY KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD.
Concerning the true nature of Christ’s kingdom and its redemptive purpose, (2) points should be observed:
(1) What Jesus’ kingdom is not. It is “not of this world.” It did not originate in this world nor does it seek to take over the world’s system. Jesus did not come to establish a religio-political theocracy or aspire to world dominion. Jesus states that if He had come to establish a political kingdom on earth, then would His “servants fight.” Since this is not the nature of the kingdom, they do not resort to war or revolution to promote Christ’s purpose on earth (cf. Mat. 26:51-52). They do not ally themselves with political parties, social pressure groups, or any secular organizations in order to establish God’s kingdom. They refuse to turn the cross into a boastful attempt to rule society. Rather than using carnal weapons (2 Cor. 10:4), Jesus’ followers are armed only with SPIRITUAL WEAPONS (Eph. 6:10-18). However, this does not mean that Jesus’ disciples are indifferent to God’s demand for just government, justice, peace, or curtailing lawlessness. Christians must bring a “prophetic Word” to the state concerning its moral responsibilities under God.
(2) What Jesus’ kingdom is. Christ’s kingdom, i.e., the kingdom of God, involves His rule, Lordship, power, and spiritual activity in the lives and hearts of all those who receive Him and obey His word of truth (v. 37), The kingdom of God is “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17). It confronts the spiritual forces of Satan with spiritual weapons (see Mat. 12:28; Luke 11:20; Acts 26:18; Eph. 6:12). The Church’s role is that of a bondservant of Jesus Christ, not that of a ruler of this present world. Her strength is not in worldly power but in the cross; her suffering and rejection at the hands of the world are her glory (2 Cor. 3:7-18). Only in renouncing worldly power did the New Testament Church find God’s power. The Church today faces this same choice: only by losing her life in the world will she find herself in God.
Sad but true, the world throughout this age will remain an ENEMY of both God and His people (Jn. 15:19; Rom. 12:1, 2; Jam. 4:4; 1 Jn. 2:15-17; 4:4). So, dear Church la-las, the war for souls is encumbered upon ALL believers till the end. Because God wants to save ALL from Hell, this causes a crisis—EVERYONE MUST MAKE A CHOICE: HEAVEN OR HELL. The necessary and fundamental condition of entry into the Kingdom of God is “Repent ye, and believe the Gospel” (Mk. 1:15).
One aspect of the Kingdom of God was and still is deliverance from the demonic. Jesus demonstrated this and He gave power to His people to “cast out devils…heal the sick” (Mk. 16:17-18). These “signs” (Greek semeion, G4592) performed by Jesus’ disciples confirm that the Gospel message, the Kingdom of God had come to earth with power. And don’t believe for a minute that these signs have vanished, as many would have us believe. They are intended to “advance”/ “continue” until Christ returns. These power manifestations were not just restricted to the early Church, they are for all time.
WE COULD rightly say that God gave us the Son; the Son gave us salvation; the Holy Spirit empowers us to advance in the Kingdom of God in the sense of “completed ascent,” “stage of perfection,” “earning rank and place of honor.” One philosopher stated: “Every creature has developed and still develops and thus continually ADVANCES to become a better being than it was.” Others see ADVANCEMENT in terms of “eternal life must mean eternal progress.”
One thing we can be sure of, the Divine rule of the world embraces ALL humankind…in either a positive or negative way—progress towards the goal of salvation, or the goal of damnation. The starting point of the human ascent or descent will be manifested in this life. After this, we have no choice left.