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TitusMatthew 24

Lorin Friesen, November 2016

I have added an analysis of 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians to the end of this essay. 1 Thessalonians appears to describe the time just before the transition of Matthew 24, while 2 Thessalonians describes the time just after the transition of Matthew 24. I am not suggesting that these Biblical passages apply only to these times. That is because God guides history by taking advantage of universal cognitive principles. Thus, these passages also describe universal truths that apply at all times. In addition, the path by which God transforms society is similar to the path by which God transforms individuals. Therefore, verses that are especially applicable to certain stages of societal transformation will also be especially applicable to corresponding stages of personal transformation.

Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13 are parallel passages that describe the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. All three passages start with the same comment by the disciples, the same response by Jesus, followed by the same question by his disciples. Quoting from Mark, “As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.’ As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?” (Mark 13:1-4). The phrasing in Matthew and Luke is a little different, but the same three features are present in almost identical form.

It also appears that 1 John 2 is referring to the transition described in Matthew 24.

Summarizing,

1) The disciples look at the Temple and say, ‘Behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings’.

2) Jesus responds, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down’.

3) The disciples ask, ‘When will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?’

Jesus’ predictions became literally true in A.D. 70, when Jerusalem was captured by Roman soldiers. According to Josephus, a Roman soldier threw a torch against the Temple tapestries and the resulting fire burned so hot that the building collapsed. Apparently, the gold fittings of the Temple melted and the stones were dismantled by the soldiers in order to get at the gold that had flowed into the cracks between the stones.

The General Context

Matthew 24 also has a prophetic meaning for current society. If one has a general understanding of prophecy, then it is possible to insert the events of Matthew 24 into the appropriate place in the general prophetic sequence. I recently discovered that the book of Revelation makes sense as a single, connected, rational sequence when it is analyzed from a cognitive perspective. In simple terms, the book of Revelation describes in symbolic language the steps that God must take to transform society, and if one understands how the mind works, then one can explain why these steps are necessary. Going further, I just finished looking at 1 Corinthians from a cognitive viewpoint, and realized that Paul is describing the same general sequence that is found in Revelation, but from a more personal perspective.

Looking at briefly at the book of Revelation, it appears that society is going through two sequences. The first sequence in Revelation 5-9 describes what happens when only incarnation is regarded as worthy of opening the scroll of knowledge. A mental concept of incarnation forms within the mind when abstract technical thought becomes integrated with concrete technical thought. Thus, when the Lamb is regarded as the only one who is worthy of opening the book in Revelation 5, then this is mentally equivalent to regarding technical thought as the only valid form of thought. This describes the prominent mindset that has guided Western thought during the last several hundred years, and I suggest that we are reaching the end of this first sequence. A major transition occurs in Revelation 10. The ‘little book’ of a general understanding is developed, this understanding bridges the sea of subjective thought with the earth of rational thinking, and this understanding brings an end to the mystery of God.

This lays the foundation for the second sequence in Revelation 11-20. The new understanding is proclaimed in Revelation 11. This causes Satan to be cast down from heaven in Revelation 12, which provokes the backlash of the dragon and the two beasts in Revelation 13. Revelation 14-20 then describes the process by which the kingdom of God is extended to rule over all of creation.

Dismantling the Stones of Absolute Truth

Now that we have the big picture, let us return to Matthew 24. Placing this chapter within the two sequences of Revelation is easy to do if one examines the introduction from a symbolic perspective: The disciples commented on the grandeur of the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus responded that every stone would be torn down, and the disciples then asked Jesus to describe this in more detail.

Stones represent solid facts, and the stones of the Temple represent the solid facts of religious truth. Jesus is saying that a time will come when all religious truth will be dismantled. Using contemporary language, Jesus is predicting that the edifice of Christendom will collapse and society will become totally post-Christian. This may well be the defining characteristic of current Western civilization. In other words, if one wishes to look for a fulfillment of Matthew 24, one does not have to comb the news for obscure references to biblical topics. Instead, one simply has to glance at the headlines, because society as a whole is in the process of fulfilling this chapter.

Looking cognitively at the dismantling of religious truth, Perceiver thought is the part of the mind that deals with facts and truth. Perceiver thought evaluates new facts by comparing them with basic truths that are believed to be true. In other words, Perceiver thought starts with what is known for certain and then uses these foundational beliefs to evaluate other facts. Perceiver certainty can come either from absolute truth or from universal truth.

Absolute truth is based in MMNs of personal status. (Mental networks are discussed here.) Absolute truth believes that a fact is true if it is spoken by a person with sufficient emotional status. For instance, the Bible is true because it was written by God, and God is a very important person who is mentally represented by an MMN with great emotional status. The same kind of reasoning is used by the individual who concludes that there is no God because Stephen Hawking says that there is no God and Stephen Hawking is an important person.

Universal truth is based in the TMN of a general understanding. Universal truth believes that a fact is true if it describes a set of connections that occur repeatedly in many places and at many times. For instance, the law of gravity is true because an object will fall to the earth in a similar manner no matter when and where it is dropped. Teacher emotion comes from order-within-complexity. Teacher thought feels good when the simple statement of some general theory can be used to explain many specific situations. When Perceiver thought discovers that a fact is repeated in many places and times, then this will prompt Teacher thought to come up with a general theory that describes this Perceiver repetition. For instance, the mathematical theory F=MA can be used to explain the law of gravity.

Education begins with absolute truth and then moves to universal truth. Using educational terminology, rote learning is followed by critical thinking. Making the transition from rote learning to critical thinking is not easy, as illustrated by the crisis of knowing that the typical teenager goes through. Children naturally assume that everything spoken by parents and other authority figures must be true, because the childish mind regards adults as very important people. Therefore, a child follows absolute truth and rote learning. When a child becomes a teenager, then adults are no longer viewed within Mercy thought as sources of authority, causing a teenager to question absolute truth and rote learning.

In brief, I suggest that Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13 describe society going through a teenage crisis, in which the absolute truth of religious authorities is being questioned. An attitude of absolute truth attaches great Mercy importance to the sources of religious truth: “Behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings” (Mark 13:1). Jesus answers by predicting that every ‘stone’ of absolute religious truth will be overthrown and destroyed.

Simple observation tells us that we currently live in a society in which most absolute religious truth has been overthrown and destroyed, which has been replaced by the universal truth of the laws of nature, described by the general theories of science.

Rebuilding the Temple

This transition can be seen in Peter’s famous confession of faith: “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it’” (Matt: 16:13-18).

Caesarea Philippi was a center of Greek culture and religion in the north of Israel. Thus, this conversation occurred within a context of established religion interacting with secular culture and spirituality. Jesus firsts asks his disciples about others’ concept of incarnation: ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ and his disciples respond by saying that people are using MMNs representing important religious experts to evaluate Jesus: ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, one of the prophets’. Jesus then asked his disciples about a good concept of incarnation: ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter responds by interpreting incarnation in terms of God and Teacher thought: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’. Jesus points out that Peter’s response is not based in MMNs of personal authority but rather in the TMN of a concept of God: ‘Blessed are you, Simon barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven’. Jesus then adds that this new perspective will provide the foundation ‘rock’ for his church, and he gives Simon the name of Peter, which means rock: ‘I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church’. And this new foundation of universal truth will be ultimately successful: ‘and the gates of Hades will not overpower it’.

Notice the parallel symbology. On the one hand, Jesus is predicting that the existing Temple will be dismantled stone by stone. On the other hand, Jesus is also predicting that he will build his church upon the rock of Peter’s confession of faith.

Jesus connects the rebuilding of the Temple with the rebirth of incarnation in another passage. Near the beginning of his ministry, Jesus went into the temple and cleansed it of its commercialization by driving out the animals and overturning the tables of the money changers. The Jews then asked him, “‘What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body” (John 2:18-21).

Notice that Jesus did not say that he would destroy the Temple, but rather that the Jews are destroying their temple—presumably through commercialization. One of the symptoms of absolute religious truth being questioned is that Mercy feelings of awe and reverence become replaced by secular thought and commercialism. Using cognitive language, absolute truth will only survive if the source of truth has an emotional status that is much greater than the emotional status of personal identity. A strong sense of absolute truth will separate a temple from normal human activity through the use of walls and taboos. Commercial activity within the Temple indicates that these mental walls and taboos are starting to crumble. Thus, one can see that cognitively speaking, the stones of the temple of absolute religious truth are already starting to crumble.

This statement is repeated when Jesus is put on trial, but his accusers misquote what he said: “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands’” (Mark 14:58). Jesus said that the Jews are destroying the temple, while his accusers claim that Jesus will do the destroying. A similar sort of cognitive confusion occurs when absolute truth is being dismantled. Absolute truth falls apart when people lose their respect for sources of authority in Mercy thought. For instance, traditional sources of authority became questioned in a major way as an aftermath of World War I, and this questioning played a significant role in leading Western society down the road to post-Christendom. However, fundamentalist Christians have tended to blame ‘secular humanism’ with its rational thinking for attacking the stones of the Temple. But secular humanism is based in objective science, which is actually a partial expression of incarnation.

Turning now to the book of Revelation, a major transition from absolute truth to universal truth occurs in Revelation 10 with the development of an integrated understanding of objective and subjective thought based in a rational concept of God. Revelation 11 begins by specifically connecting this new integrated understanding with the Temple: “Then there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, ‘Get up and measure the temple of God and the altar, and those who worship in it. Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months” (Rev. 11:1-2). On the positive side, rational thought is being used to analyze a concept of God, religious worship, and religious worshipers. This describes the type of research that I am attempting to do using the theory of mental symmetry. On the negative side, secular society is trampling religious thought, which describes what is happening in today’s post-Christian world.

Summarizing, the dismantling of the stones of the Temple corresponds cognitively to the questioning of absolute religious truth. The solution is to rebuild religion upon the concept of incarnation as God—as stated by Peter’s confession of faith. This transition from viewing Jesus-as-man to recognizing Jesus-as-God appears to be the primary theme of the book of Revelation, as well as the main theme of the book of 1 Corinthians. The three passages on the destruction of the Temple may have had a partial fulfillment when the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70, but I suggest that they are primarily a symbolic description of the transition from absolute truth with its MMN of Jesus-as-man being replaced by universal truth with its TMN of Jesus-as-God.

Academic Struggle

We will now turn our attention to the three chapters in the synoptic Gospels on the destruction of the Temple.

Jesus begins by saying, “See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end” (Matt. 24:4-6).

When a transition occurs from MMNs of personal authority to the TMN of a general theory, then there is usually an intermediate stage of soft science. Soft science combines MMNs of personal authority with TMNs of general theory. (A hard science, in contrast, is based in the TMN of a single integrated general theory.) Knowledge will be divided up into schools of thought, each with its own general theories backed up by its own set of authorities. For instance, when psychology first emerged, it was divided into different schools, such as Freudian psychology, Adlerian psychology, and Jungian psychology. Similarly, when absolute truth rules, then there is no strife because everyone submits to the same ultimate authority in Mercy thought. However, when absolute truth starts to be replaced by universal truth, then there will be many schools of thought, each claiming to have an accurate theoretical understanding of Jesus-as-God. These various schools of thought will struggle with one another for dominance.

Jesus does not say that there will be various wars but rather that people will ‘hear of wars and hearings of wars’. In other words, people will explicitly interact at the verbal level of words and theories. But this verbal interaction will be implicitly guided by conflict between MMNs of personal authority. Using psychology as an example, psychologists will all claim to be searching for a general understanding of psychology, but what will really matter is whether one is a Jungian or Freudian.

When belief in absolute truth started to fade in the 1970s, then American fundamentalist leaders thought that this signaled the end of civilization. This explains why Jesus warns that “that is not yet the end” (Matt. 24:6). Luke adds that people will also say “the time is near” (Luke 21:8). Similarly, many popular books have been written in recent years claiming that the return of Jesus is just around the corner. This is because fundamentalists who believe in absolute truth cannot conceive of any other basis for truth. Therefore, when respect for authority begins to fade and people no longer accept biblical truth as absolutely true, then the fundamentalist assumes that Jesus will have to return in some stunning way that creates defining experiences which will re-establish his emotional status as the ultimate expert. (A similar sort of thing happens cognitively in a revival meeting.)

Jesus warns his listeners, “See to it that no one misleads you” (Matt. 24:4). People will be misled because they will confuse the method with the message. Absolute truth is not evaluated by examining the content that is being taught but rather by examining the expert who teaches this content. Using an analogy, absolute truth evaluates a letter by examining the name of the sender written on the envelope, while universal truth evaluates a letter by opening up the envelope and comparing what is written inside with other content. Because absolute truth does not examine the content of a letter, it can be deceived by putting the right name on the envelope and writing garbage inside. Going further, a fundamentalist attitude of absolute truth will naturally reject a mindset that does not put important names upon envelopes, even if the content of the letter remains unchanged.

For instance, a few years ago I gave a seminar on mental symmetry and a Wycliffe Bible translator was in the audience. Even though the specific content that I was teaching was the same as the biblical content that she was trying to defend, she totally rejected what I was saying because I was not using the method of absolute truth. Using religious language, those who are attempting to build an understanding of Jesus-as-God will naturally be rejected by those who are clinging to a concept of Jesus-as-man.

Societal Struggle

This theoretical struggle will then broaden into more extensive conflicts: “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes” (Matt. 24:7). The word translated nation refers to ethnic groups, which are mentally backed up by MMNs of culture. The word kingdom refers to Teacher theories, because a general theory is like a kingdom rules over some domain. Jesus is saying that there will be conflict in Mercy thought thought as well as in Teacher thought. Cultures will clash, and paradigms will struggle. Saying this more generally, what began as an academic struggle between philosophers and other theoreticians will eventually expand into a conflict over worldviews that affects society as a whole. In other words, what philosophers and academia struggle with today, society as a whole struggles with tomorrow.

Rocks represent solid facts, while earth represents the solid ground of a rational landscape. A mental earthquake occurs when facts that were considered to be solid suddenly shift. I have mentioned that Perceiver thought evaluates new facts by comparing them with basic beliefs. When absolute truth begins to fade, then societal earthquakes will occur as facts become re-evaluated in the light of new fundamental beliefs. And when belief in absolute truth fades in some area of thought or society, then people will lose the ability to evaluate information in that area, leading to intellectual famine.

The clash of cultures will be followed by an explicit attack upon absolute truth, which is described in the next verses: “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another” (Matt. 24:9-10). The word translated tribulation is thlipsis, which means squeezing and narrowness and not necessarily suffering. When technical thought is regarded as the only valid form of thinking, then knowledge and skill will naturally split up into isolated specializations, leading ultimately to a society such as ours in which one must become an officially approved, professionally trained specialist before being permitted to do research or perform action within some narrow domain. Notice the multiple levels of squeezing. The average person is squeezed by being forbidden from doing the activity of a specialist. Becoming trained is a squeezing process that involves specialized technical training. And being a professional means being squeezed because each profession is only permitted to function within its area of specialization. Jesus says that ‘they will deliver you to tribulation’. Similarly, the drive toward professional specialization has been motivated by secular science and technology, which has squeezed religious thought and activity out of one area after another, and then replaced religion by a mindset of squeezing. Jesus’ statement that they ‘will kill you’ could refer to physical death or it could also refer to mental death, because technical specialization naturally turns people into robots who perform their tasks in a machine-like fashion that lacks humanity. Saying this another way, science tries to ignore subjective bias by being objective, but this leads inevitably to a form of thinking and behaving that suppresses the subjective.

Finally, Jesus says that ‘you will be hated by all cultural groups because of my name. Looking at culture in more detail, a culture forms when a group of people are guided by similar MMNs, most of which were acquired by growing up in a similar social and physical environment. Each member of a cultural group will then be driven by mental networks to act in a way that seems proper to other members of the group. One of the foundational principles of Christianity is that a person needs to be saved from obeying MMNs of culture and personal status. But when Christianity is taught as absolute truth, then this message of not submitting to MMNs will itself be backed up by an MMN with great emotional status. In fact, absolute truth leads naturally to an attitude of religious self-denial, which assumes that following God implies denying self and focusing fully upon God.

When the stones of absolute truth begin to crumble, then the average person will rebel from this imposition of Christian belief: ‘Who are you to tell me that I need to change? Why are you trying to make everyone feel miserable? Christian belief is nothing more than authority figures using religion as a justification to suppress the average person. Get out of my personal life’. This hatred will not be directed to the person of Jesus or to the practice of Christianity. People will still view Jesus as a good moral man, and organizations that practice religious self-denial, such as the Salvation Army, will still be honored. Similarly, the average person will still appreciate going to church to have a religious experience, because this fills the emotional void that is not being satisfied by objective science and technology. Instead, the hatred will be directed to the name of Jesus. The average person will hate a theology that teaches personal condemnation, while the rigorous scientist will reject biblical truth that is based in blind faith. Being hated by all nations implies that the attack will not be directed to specific Christian content but rather that the very mindset of absolute condemning truth will be rejected. In simple terms, Christianity will be hated because it teaches the necessity of personal transformation, and nobody likes to be told that they need to be saved from sin.

This hatred will cause many to abandon absolute Christian truth: “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another” (Matt. 24:10). The word fall away means ‘to set a snare or stumbling block that causes to stumble, offend, or become indignant’. Similarly, many biblical doctrines are now being downplayed or abandoned because they act as stumbling blocks that make people feel personally condemned. Thus, Christianity is being made more user-friendly and less judgmental. Both those who hold on to unpleasant biblical truths as well as those who try to reshape Christianity to make it more loving feel strongly that they are being betrayed by the other side. Thus, the cultural conflict that started with theory and then spread to society as a whole is now being experienced within the Christian church.

Before we continue with Matthew, let us examine what Luke adds: “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name. Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives” (Luke 21:16-19). I have suggested that Matthew’s statement that they ‘will kill you’ does not indicate a wholesale slaughter of Christians. This is backed up by Luke, who says that only some will be put to death (literally, ‘they will put from among you to death’). Matthew emphasizes that one should focus upon the positive end result. Similarly, Luke says that ‘remaining under will lead to the saving of your soul’. Applying this to current society, Christians are being killed for their religious faith in many countries, but what is primarily happening is that the stones of religious truth are being dismantled. Matthew says that conflict will extend to religious authorities. Luke adds that the conflict will include even MMNs of family and close friendship.

Luke’s statement that ‘not a hair of your head will perish’ is rather curious. Paul discusses long and short hair in 1 Corinthians 11. The way that Paul describes hair in the first half of that chapter leads to the hypothesis that hair represents intuitive thought, which jumps from specific Mercy experience to general Teacher theory, guided by mental networks. This interpretation of hair is consistent with the context in Matthew 24, because the preceding verses describe intuitive thought: “Make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute” (Luke 21:14,15). Intuition is useful, but it needs to be trained to be accurate.

Matthew 24 describes the transition from absolute truth to universal truth—from truth based in personal authority to truth held together by general understanding. Intuition plays a major role in the first stages of developing a general understanding, because one is using educated guesses to try to come up with general hypotheses. If ‘not a hair of your head will perish’, then this implies that the intuitive thought that is occurring at this stage will be reasonably accurate, and Jesus explicitly states this because he says that opponents will not be able to resist or refute the spontaneous wisdom. Notice that I said reasonably accurate and not totally accurate. Jesus is not saying that the hair will not get damaged but rather that it will not perish. Using engineering language, reasonably accurate intuition is useful for providing an educated guess that establishes a context and catches stupid mistakes, but it still needs to be followed by more detailed calculations.

Based upon personal experience, I think I know why Jesus can make this guarantee. When one is surrounded by individuals who are openly throwing off the shackles of absolute truth, then one can learn principles of moral cause-and-effect by simply observing one’s neighbors. And one will not have to try to learn wisdom, because normal life will itself turn into a school of wisdom in which one is continually being forced to learn from others what not to do. If one can respond in a positive fashion to this personal environment of willful ignorance, then intuition will gain the content that is required to become reasonably accurate. And if one can remain within such a situation without turning cynical or judgmental, then one will also gain one’s soul.

Apostasy and Lawlessness

Returning now to Matthew, absolute truth is based in MMNs of personal authority. When those who reshape Christian doctrine to be more user-friendly become accepted as legitimate Christian authorities, or when accepted Christian authorities abandon biblical truth, then anti-Christian truth will become widely preached—and accepted—in the name of Christianity. In the words of Jesus, “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many” (Matt. 24:11). Absolute truth used to provide the basis for morality. For instance, most Western individuals in the past did not commit adultery, because the Bible says, ‘Do not commit adultery’. These moral rules also provided the foundation for a civil society, in which social and economic interaction was guided by the rule of law. When absolute truth crumbles, then both law-abiding behavior and civil society will become lost: “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12).

Jesus emphasized in verse 8 that one should take the positive attitude of regarding societal confusion and conflict as the birth pangs of something new coming into being. Similarly, Jesus focuses upon the positive end result in verse 13: “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.” When biblically based societal norms are rejected, and when Christian leaders abandon core Christian doctrines, then those who are still holding on to absolute truth will feel driven to proclaim moral absolutes and condemn apostate colleagues. Stated more crudely, they will feel that Jesus is letting truth down by refusing to return, and so they will step into the gap by defending absolute truth as vigorously as possible. However, Jesus says that one should ‘remain under and persevere’ in order to save oneself. That is because the ultimate goal is not to preserve what is being lost, but rather to be personally saved by becoming part of what is about to come. Using an analogy, the goal is not to save the sinking ship but rather to make it to solid ground.

The parallel passage in Luke 21 adds more details to this betrayal and how one should respond: “They will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake” (Luke 21:12). In other words, the laws of secular society will be changed in order to imprison and quarantine Christian belief and practice. Similarly, officially approved Christian doctrine will change, causing biblical truth to be officially rejected. As Matthew states, the problem will be with the name of Jesus. This name will conflict with TMNs that rule over domains, as well as with MMNs of respected authority.

Luke specifically instructs that one should not focus upon defending oneself, but rather upon applying Christian doctrine and allowing the Christian message to defend itself: “It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute” (Luke 21:13-15). Mark 13 adds “Do not worry before hand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11). This is not a trivial point. Absolute truth is based upon MMNs of personal authority, while universal truth is held together by the TMN of a general understanding of how things work. For instance, the law of gravity does not automatically become true if some important person believes it and automatically become false if authority figures stop believing that it is true. Instead, the law of gravity is based upon facts that occur in many situations independently of what people think or feel. Jesus is telling people to cultivate a mindset that allows truth to speak for itself and stops thinking in terms of defending truth.

The ultimate goal is to go from absolute truth that is based in MMNs of personal authority to universal truth that applies to all MMNs of culture and personal authority: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14). Gospel means good news, which implies a positive message. ‘Of the kingdom’ means that this message is a TMN that rules over some domain. ‘Preached to the entire inhabited world’ means that this TMN applies to all MMNs of personal identity and culture. ‘As a witness to all ethnic groups’ emeans that this verbal message has to be accompanied by MMNs of personal application and that it must apply to all MMNs of culture. Finally, ‘then the end purpose will come’ indicates that the ultimate goal is to translate the Christian message into a general theory that applies to all personal existence.

This verse is typically used as a justification for translating the Bible into the languages of all ethnic groups. This is one major aspect of proclaiming universally a message of the kingdom of God. But as we saw earlier with the response of the Wycliffe Bible translator, it is possible to translate the words of the Bible into another language while still holding firmly to the fundamentalist mindset of absolute truth. My experience is that Bible translators have learned that one cannot cling to the words of the biblical text but rather must look for an underlying meaning that crosses cultural assumptions—when dealing with specific phrases and verses in the Bible, but the typical Bible translator is not willing to apply this principle to the Bible as a whole. In other words, critical thinking is being applied to fragments of the Bible but the mindset of absolute truth still rules over the entire Bible. In contrast, I am attempting to use the theory of mental symmetry to explain all of personal existence.

Abomination of Desolation

The next verses talk about a time of transition: “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)” (Matt. 24:15). Abomination means ‘something disgustingly abhorrent that reeks with stench’, while desolation means ‘to lay waste, make destitute or barren’. Absolute truth is based in MMNs of emotional status. An ‘abomination of desolation in the holy place’ occurs when core religious MMNs are directly attacked and belittled. This idea of outside forces gathering to destroy the core of absolute religious belief is conveyed by Luke’s description: “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near” (Luke 21:20).

The original abomination of desolation mentioned by Daniel occurred under Antiochus Epiphanes IV. Quoting from the linked website, “He gave himself the surname ‘Epiphanes’ which means ‘the visible god’ (that he and Jupiter were identical). He acted as though he really were Jupiter and the people called him ‘Epimanes’ meaning ‘the madman’. He was violently bitter against the Jews, and was determined to exterminate them and their religion. He devastated Jerusalem in 168 BC, defiled the Temple, offered a pig on its altar, erected an altar to Jupiter, prohibited Temple worship, forbade circumcision on pain of death, sold thousands of Jewish families into slavery, destroyed all copies of Scripture that could be found, and slaughtered everyone discovered in possession of such copies, and resorted to every conceivable torture to force Jews to renounce their religion.”

Jesus then instructs people how they should respond. These instructions make literal sense if Jesus is warning people what they should do when Jerusalem will be literally surrounded. The Roman armies laid siege to Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the physical temple was destroyed. During the Roman invasion, people probably did have only minutes to escape the invading armies, and it would have been important not to run back into the house to retrieve one’s possessions. In fact, many Passover visitors to Jerusalem were trapped in the city for four months by the Roman siege and ended up killed, enslaved, or exiled. But it does not make sense to interpret these instructions literally in today’s society, because it is no longer possible to run away physically from an occupying force. However, I suggest that these instructions make sense when interpreted cognitively, and that this cognitive interpretation matches the time of transition that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 7.

It appears that the entire Bible uses cognitively natural symbology in a consistent manner. Therefore, we will interpret Jesus’ statements using the same symbology that was used when discussing the book of Revelation. Verse 16 says that “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains”. The earth represents rational thought, while a mountain represents a high point from which one can gain an overview of rational thought. A mountain is a pragmatic form of theory, based in common sense rather than abstract theory. Interpreted symbolically, when the core beliefs of absolute truth are blasphemed, then one should leave religious thought and find refuge in common sense. Verse 17 adds, “Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house”. A house would represent facts and mental networks associated with personal identity, because a person lives in a house. Therefore, if one is functioning alongside personal identity, then one should not try to analyze personal identity. Verse 18 says something similar: “Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak.” A field would represent some objective field of expertise, while a cloak is a covering for personal identity. Again Jesus is saying that if one has some objective skill, then one should not try to find a covering for personal identity. Notice that both of these warnings assume that objective knowledge and skill are present while subjective content is lacking. This accurately describes a society such as ours in which rational thought is limited to the realm of the objective. Summarizing, Jesus is saying that one should not become a fundamentalist who clings to subjective truth, but instead that one should abandon absolute religious truth and be guided by objective expertise as well as knowledge that is close to the personal, such as the knowledge of psychology.

Notice that this instruction is being addressed to those who live in Judea—to those whose identity is based in the absolute religious truth of a ‘holy temple’. They are not being told to abandon truth itself but rather to flee from absolute truth in order to take refuge in the universal truth of pragmatic understanding. Fleeing to the mountains is quite different than the false prophets of verse 11 who come up with their own version of absolute truth, or the apostates of verse 12 who reject moral truth. The point is that when society attacks the core of absolute religious truth, then one should not turn into a fundamentalist or jihadist who tries to defend absolute truth at all costs. First, it will not work. When society as a whole is trying to dismantle the stones of absolute religious truth, then trying to defend absolute religious truth will only postpone the inevitable. Second, it is personally destructive. Defending absolute truth does not lead to personal transformation, but rather turns believers into religious tyrants.

This may sound like a call to abandon Christianity, but that is not the case. Most Christians today recognize that peripheral doctrines of Christianity can be based in the ‘mountains’ of common sense, while insisting that core Christian doctrines still require the absolute truth of some ‘holy temple’. For instance, most Christians know that moral rules such as ‘do not steal’ or ‘do not lie’ make sense, and can be taught and promoted using rational thought. However, when it comes to fundamental beliefs such as the Trinitarian nature of God or asking Jesus into your heart, then the typical Christian may know instinctively that these beliefs are significant, but be unable to support them using rational understanding. Thus, the typical Christian concludes that abandoning absolute truth means rejecting core Christian doctrines. In contrast, I have discovered that all of the core doctrines of Christianity describe universal principles of mental cause-and-effect, and do not need to be supported by the absolute truth of the Bible. I am not suggesting that the Bible is wrong or that one should stop reading the Bible, but rather that the Bible is an accurate description of universal principles, and that it is possible to describe these principles without referring to the Bible. This is described in the book Natural Cognitive Theology as well as in the various essays of this website. One of the primary goals of my research has been to make it possible to flee to the mountains without abandoning Christianity.

I suggest this passage can also be viewed as a general principle. When the stones of absolute religious truth are being dismantled, then part of this process involves blaspheming the MMNs of holiness that provide the emotional foundation for absolute truth. When one encounters such blasphemy, one should not respond by defending the ‘Jerusalem’ of absolute truth, or by finding refuge in some other country or city. Instead, one should flee to the mountains of pragmatic understanding. This is not easy to do, because blasphemy, by definition, triggers strong emotions. It is very easy to lash out like a cornered animal in order to protect these emotions, or else avoid thinking about religion in order to avoid triggering such emotions.

Looking at this from a different perspective, fleeing Judea for the mountains describes a dilemma with which I have wrestled with over the decades. If the goal is to become a mentally whole person guided by a rational understanding of God and Christian doctrine, then who is closer to being a mature Christian? Is it the Christian who views the Bible as a source of absolute truth or is it the non-Christian who understands and applies many of the principles that are contained within the Bible? Jesus asks precisely the same question three chapters earlier: “‘A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, “Son, go work today in the vineyard.” And he answered, “I will not”; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, “I will, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’ They said, ‘The first.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. ‘For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him’” (Matt. 21:28-32). Jesus is comparing two people: the person who verbally rejects his father’s instructions while obeying them in practice, and the person who says he will obey his father but does not. The modern equivalent would be the intelligent non-Christian who verbally rejects God while acting in a manner that is consistent with the universal laws of God, and the Christian who says that he obeys God while in practice acting as if God does not exist. Jesus asks which of these two is closer to the kingdom of God.

Jesus then applies this parable to his religious audience. First, they are not guided by a concept of righteousness. Righteousness means acting in a manner that is consistent with a Teacher understanding of the ways of God. In my experience, most Christians do not grasp what it means to be righteous, because they are convinced that the character of God is ultimately incomprehensible, and one cannot behave in a manner that is consistent with something that has no shape or form. Second, science has demonstrated that it is possible to comprehend the ways of God as expressed in the physical universe, and technology has shown that it is possible to behave in a manner that is consistent with the laws of nature. Despite being literally surrounded by this lesson in the character of God, most Christians have not ‘felt remorse afterward’, but continue to insist that God is incomprehensible.

Returning to Matthew 24, Jesus is saying that one should hold on to absolute truth until the core of absolute truth becomes blasphemed, and then one should abandon religious truth for secular expertise and psychology as quickly as possible.

Jesus then adds, “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath” (Matt. 24:19,20). Cognitively speaking, a baby is some new project that is being conceived or nurtured. Pregnancy describes the internal stages of conceiving and planning a project, while nursing refers to the external stages of getting a project off the ground. Jesus is saying that this major transition from absolute to universal truth will be much more painful for those who are going through personal transitions. Paul says exactly the same thing at the end of 1 Corinthians 7.

In winter, everything is frozen, and there is less sunlight. Absolute truth is like frozen liquid, because specific words and experiences are being ‘frozen’ by MMNs of personal status into ‘solid’ truth. Saying this another way, the fundamentalist is mentally frozen, locked into a time warp of ancient religious experiences and holy words. The sun of a general Teacher understanding will shine upon this frozen mental landscape and melt the rigid mindset. Prayer addresses a concept of God in Teacher thought. Cognitively speaking, Jesus is saying that this transition will be much easier if Teacher thought is already throwing some light upon the frozen beliefs of absolute truth. Saying this another way, it will be difficult for a fundamentalist to make the transition from absolute to universal truth. ‘During the Sabbath’ conveys a similar message, because one stops performing secular activity on the Sabbath in order to focus upon God and religion. (The book of Hebrews describes a Sabbath rest that goes beyond the secular/religious view of Sabbath being described here.) In other words, making the transition from absolute to universal truth will be more difficult if one is currently functioning within a religious mental context.

The Great Tribulation

Jesus says that this transition will lead to the greatest tribulation ever experienced: “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matt. 24:21,22). The word translated life is sarx, which Paul uses to describe the flesh. Cognitively speaking, the flesh describes MMNs and Server skills that emerge as a result of growing up within a physical body in a physical universe. More simply, it is natural concrete thought.

The Great Tribulation is typically portrayed as a global bloodbath. For instance, the Left Behind series of books “unduly sensationalize the death and destruction of masses of people.” (The implicit assumption is that God will finally ‘get his act together’ and reimpose absolute truth upon the world through an outpouring of divine wrath.) Obviously, many people will lose their lives during this period of societal upheaval, but as was mentioned before, the word tribulation means narrowness and squeezing and not necessarily suffering and persecution. Jesus says that the narrowness and squeezing during this period will be greater than any other time in human history. I mentioned previously the squeezing effect of technical thought. I suggest that the Great Tribulation is a natural outcome of technical thought gone amok. When technical thought is regarded as the only valid form of thinking, then personal existence will eventually be subdivided into technical specializations. Each specialization will only be permitted to act or think within its area of expertise, and anyone who wants to become a specialist will have to go through an extended period of training. The mind uses three forms of thinking: technical thought, mental networks, and normal thought. Technical thought is guided by the rigorous rules of some ‘game’ within the playing field of that ‘game’. Mental networks, in contrast, function emotionally in a non-logical manner, as illustrated by intuition. Technical thought is always rigorous and logical. Mental networks and intuition are not inherently rational, but can be trained to become consistent with rational thought. Finally, normal thought uses Perceiver facts and Server sequences to build bridges between various technical specializations and mental networks. For instance, I use primarily normal thought to work with the theory of mental symmetry, looking for common patterns within the mental networks and specializations of society. Technical thought will naturally divide and squeeze life into technical specializations, but absolute truth with its core mental networks will prevent technical thought from attacking the essence of humanity. For instance, one’s job may be subdivided into technical specializations, but during the weekend one attends a church in which people from many different specializations interact and learn about a God whose absolute truth governs everyone. However, if technical thought were to blaspheme the essence of religious faith, then there would be nothing left to preserve the humanity of individuals, and nothing to stop society from completely fragmenting into technical and cultural fiefdoms. Luke describes this fragmenting triggered by the secular trampling of religious thought: “They will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24). On the one hand, the sword of technical specialization is cutting and dividing human life into fragments, while on the other hand, religion is being taken captive by MMNs of culture and lifestyle. This describes what is currently happening in Western society. I keep thinking that the technical chopping and cultural enslaving has gone as far as possible, but there always seem to be new ways in which technical thought can eliminate humanity and common sense, as well as new ways in which mental networks of lifestyle and culture can take religious thought captive. Therefore, I do not know how far this process will go, because I keep thinking mistakenly that it cannot go any further.

Jesus says that this dehumanizing and de-truthing process has to be brought artificially to an end in order to ‘save the flesh for the sake of the elect’: “Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (Matt. 24:22). As was mentioned, the word that Jesus uses for the flesh is the same as the word that Paul uses to describe the ‘carnal nature’ of the flesh. A mindset of absolute truth naturally think that following God implies denying this carnal nature. But the ultimate goal is not to deny the flesh but rather to transform the flesh. If the technical balkanization and cultural debauchery of the Great Tribulation continues too long, then those who are trying to follow God will conclude that the ultimate goal is to deny the flesh. This is not a matter of conscious decision, because living as a sane individual within an insane society will form potent mental networks which will non-verbally convince a person that living a normal life within the physical world equals denying God. Notice that Jesus says that the days will be cut short ‘for the sake of the elect’ and not for the sake of everyone. That is because the flesh does need transforming; God is not interested in preserving the status quo of childish mentality.

For instance, our family spent two summers performing musical programs in the ‘Umsiedler’ churches in Germany, which were filled with Mennonites who had lived a lifetime of suffering and persecution under Russian communism and had now emigrated to Germany. These individuals knew how to ‘suffer for Jesus’ under communism, but they had to learn how to ‘live for Jesus’ within German democracy. For most of their lives, these Christian believers had lived within a society in which one could only pursue a normal career or gain a higher education by denying one’s Christian faith. Quoting from the Mennonite Encyclopedia article, “The ecclesiology of the resettlers is determined by the now fading tradition of Mennonite church life in Russia and by their consciousness as persecuted Christians.”

I too have been ostracized for much of my lifetime because of my walk of Christian faith, and I continually have to fight the urge to write off physical existence as incurably evil. Thankfully I am also emotionally driven by the TMN of a general theory that continually encourages me to interact with others and learn from others.

This interpretation ‘of saving the flesh for the sake of the elect’ is consistent with what Jesus says in verse 26: “So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them” (Matt. 24:26). These phrases describe two ways of turning one’s back upon human society. Believing that Christ ‘is in the wilderness’ describes the path of religious self-denial, which attempts to follow God by turning one’s back upon civilization. Believing that Christ ‘is in the inner rooms’ follows the path of mysticism, which attempts to encounter God by turning one’s back on physical reality. In fact, the phrase “Go into your inner room and pray to your Father in secret” from Matthew 6:6 is often used within mystical circles to refer to the practice of mysticism.

Jesus also says that there will be a strong tendency to pursue an incomplete concept of incarnation as God: “If anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him” (Matt. 24:23). Notice that people are equating the universal being of God with some subset of existence. Saying that ‘Christ is here’ implies that Christ can be found within the confines of some technical specialization, culture, organization, or denomination. But Christ refers to incarnation-as-God, whose character is revealed in all specializations and is not limited to any specific specialization. For instance, philosophy or apologetics can teach some concepts about God, but one cannot base a belief in God upon either philosophy or apologetics, because God is larger than these limited fields. Similarly, if the theory of mental symmetry were only used to describe cognitive styles and Christian doctrines, then that would also be an example of saying that ‘Christ is here’. But I keep discovering new areas in which one can see the imprint of incarnation, which reinforces the idea that Christ is not limited to one place.

Jesus adds that “false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24). When Paul describes spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, the Greek words that are translated ‘effecting of miracles’ actually mean energies and powers, which could refer to the natural effects of technology. In contrast, signs and wonders refer more specifically to supernatural, miraculous signs. I read in one book about a study (I forget the source) that investigated individuals who claimed to have encountered UFOs. The purpose of this study was not to prove the existence of UFOs but rather to see if those who talked about meeting UFOs had any psychological characteristics in common. The common thread was that they all had a rich internal world of imaginary friends. Similarly, people who have encounters with UFOs often say that meditation is a good way of calling on UFOs. We have just seen that there will be a strong tendency during this time of great tribulation for people to turn their back upon civilization and the physical world. Some of these individuals will break through to the spiritual and supernatural realms, leading to signs and wonders. However, if one breaks through to other realms without building upon a proper foundation, then these encounters will be temporary and they will also tend to be personally destructive. One finds at the end of the book of Revelation that the ultimate goal is not to go occasionally beyond the natural, but rather to live as a whole person within a body and environment that combines the natural with what we currently call the supernatural and the spiritual. Similarly, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that the natural bodies which we currently have will be followed by spiritual bodies.

The Second Coming?

Reviewing what is happened so far, the temple stones of absolute truth have been dismantled. False prophets have arisen to fill the void left by the collapse of absolute truth, while false Christs are attempting to find a new structure to replace the destroyed Temple. Jesus has said what ‘the Christ’ is not: It is not self-denial, it is not mysticism, and it is not limited to some specific subset of existence. Jesus then states what it is: “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:27). Air symbolizes words and theories, and lightning is a flash of illumination in the air that lights up the entire landscape. Using cognitive language, there will be a flash of theoretical insight that brings light to the entire landscape of rational thought, beginning with the ‘East’ of subjective thought and extending to the ‘West’ of rational, objective thought. The next verse explains why this will occur: “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather” (Matt. 24:28). Birds live within the air of abstract theory. Historical Christianity has just been killed by blaspheming fundamental religious MMNs. Theoreticians will want to study what has happened; academia will attempt to dissect and analyze the once powerful tenets of Christianity. Eventually, an accurate understanding will emerge and the lightning will flash from East to West.

In other words, I suggest that this passage is not talking about a physical return of Jesus, because everything that is described in verses 27-31 is happening in the air. This theoretical return of Jesus is described at the end of Revelation 11: “Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.’ And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, ‘We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign’” (Rev. 11:15-17). A new integrated understanding of God and religion has been developed in Revelation 10 and proclaimed in Revelation 11. The kingdom of Christ begins when this verbal message goes through rebirth, as described in the middle of Revelation 11.

I am not suggesting that the ‘second coming of Jesus’ is only theoretical. Instead, I am suggesting that the first stage of Revelation 6-9 culminates in the revealing of a general rational understanding of God and incarnation, while the second stage of Revelation 12-19 culminates in the physical appearance of Jesus as described in Revelation 19. Satan is cast out of heaven onto Earth in Revelation 12, while Satan is thrown into the abyss in Revelation 20 and this is followed by Jesus ruling on earth in a millennial kingdom.

Returning now to Matthew 24, Jesus says that “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matt. 24:29-31). Notice all of the references to sky and heaven: sun is darkened, moon loses light, stars fall, heavenly powers shaken, sign appears in the sky, coming on the clouds of the sky, gather elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

Similar phrases can be found in Revelation 6-9 in the description of the seven trumpets. Jesus says in Matthew 24 that these signs ‘would occur immediately after the tribulation of those days’. The Great Tribulation is mentioned in Revelation 7:14, and this is the only time that this term occurs in Revelation 4-22. Revelation 7 is followed by Revelation 8 with its seven trumpets, and in the fourth trumpet, “a third of the sun and a third of the moon and a third of the stars were struck, so that a third of them would be darkened and the day would not shine for a third of it, and the night in the same way” (Rev. 8:12).

Revelation 6-9 describes what happens when incarnation is regarded as the only form of thought that is worthy of opening the book of knowledge. The end result is technical thought gone amok, and one of the end results is that objective, rational, technical, scientific thought dismantles the stones of the temple of absolute Christian truth. The seven trumpets of Revelation 8 describe a partially successful backlash against the mindset of rational scientism. The sun of general understanding is darkened, the moon of a secular worldview stops giving its light, and luminaries of society become emotionally discredited and fall from the sky. The seven trumpets describe an existing understanding being questioned, which is conveyed by the phrase ‘the powers of the heavens will be shaken’. The seven bowls in Revelation 16 describe something quite different, which is a new understanding being imposed.

This shaking is then followed by the appearance of a new general understanding: ‘the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky’. This new rational understanding of God is described in Revelation 10. In response, ‘all of the tribes of the earth will mourn’. Similarly, Revelation 11 describes a new message of mourning being proclaimed (Rev. 11:3) and the earth being tormented by this message (Rev. 11:10). Notice that the heaven of abstract theory is having an emotional impact upon the earth of rational thought, because the tribes of the earth are mourning as a result of the message. Cognitively speaking, the TMN of a rational concept of God is bringing emotional pain to the various mental networks and specializations of rational thought. (The word translated tribes is not ethnos as before, but rather phule, which means ‘descendents of a common ancestor’). This general understanding is accompanied by power and glory: ‘coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory’. Similarly, the message proclaimed in Revelation 11 is also accompanied by power (Rev. 11:6).

Luke 21 describes this emotional impact in more detail: “There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25,26). Signs are occurring in the abstract realm of the ‘sun and moon and stars’, and this is bringing emotional anguish to the nations on earth. The original Greek portrays better what is happening cognitively. Whenever two incompatible mental networks come into contact, then they will struggle with one another for dominance. The TMN of a rational concept of God is being revealed to the MMNs of nation and culture, and this is causing anguish because ‘something is being held together in close tension’. The sea with its waves represents the liquid realm of raw emotional Mercy experiences. Luke says that the ‘sea is roaring in perplexity’, implying that the TMN of a rational concept of God is causing Mercy thought to cry out with anxiety and perplexity. People are not being physically threatened but rather are ‘fainting from fear’. The earth is not yet being directly affected, but rather there is an ‘expectation of the things which are coming upon the world’. And the earth is not being shaken but rather ‘the powers of the heavens will be shaken’.

The end result is a universal understanding of Christian doctrine and praxis: “and he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matt. 24:31). The only other New Testament reference to angels and ‘the four winds’ is in Revelation 7:1: “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth.” This is consistent with the suggestion that Matthew 24 is describing what happens during the first cycle of Revelation 6-9. Notice that a theoretical integration is occurring within the air of abstract thought. This is being performed by angels, who live within abstract thought, and the elect are being gathered from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

Summarizing, the language of this passage is consistent with a theoretical appearing of incarnation that has an emotional impact upon humanity.

Fig Tree

This is followed by a parable of a fig tree: “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He [it] is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:32-35). (As a footnote to the NASB points out, the original Greek says ‘it’ and not ‘He’, consistent with the idea that this passage is not talking about a physical return of Jesus.)

Fig leaves are mentioned at the very beginning of the Bible in Genesis 3:7. Adam and Eve had just eaten from the forbidden tree and “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.” When fig leaves are mentioned by name so early in the Bible in such a critical passage, this strongly suggests that they have a symbolic meaning. Thus, fig leaves would represent the attempt of humans to ‘cover their nakedness’. Cognitively speaking, this describes the various ways in which one attempts to protect and hide core mental networks of personal identity. One unusual trait of the fig tree is that fruit and leaves both develop at the same time. This suggest the following interpretation. When a person becomes aware of personal ‘nakedness’, then one possible response is to try to cover up this nakedness using fig leaves, while the other possible response is to experience the fruit of personal growth and personal transformation.

This interpretation fits the other two times that fig trees and fig leaves are mentioned in the Gospels. In Luke 13, Jesus talks about the need for repentance within a context of general personal suffering. This is immediately followed by a parable about a fig tree: “‘Do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.’ And He began telling this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, “Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?” And he answered and said to him, “Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down”’” (Luke 13:4-9). Notice how Jesus says that people should repent rather than come up with rationalizations to cover personal suffering, and then talks about a fig tree not bearing fruit. This parable is immediately followed by Jesus healing a sick woman, and the synagogue official being indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-15). In other words, Jesus was responding to personal problems with the fruit of healing while the synagogue official was responding with a fig leaf of legalism.

The second reference to a fig tree is in Matthew 21 (a parallel passages is in Mark 11). This incident occurs at the end of Jesus’ ministry. Again there is a conflict between religious covering and personal healing: “Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer”; but you are making it a robbers’ den.’ And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they became indignant… Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, ‘No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.’ And at once the fig tree withered” (Matt. 21:12-15, 18-19). On the one hand, the religious authorities have turned religious practice into commercialized ritual that covers one’s nakedness but has nothing to do with salvation or repentance. Jesus throws out the commercialization and replaces it with the personal salvation of healing. Using symbolic language, he replaces fig leaves with fig fruit. As before, the religious officials become indignant that he has removed their fig leaves. This is then followed by Jesus seeing a fig tree that has only leaves and not fruit and responding by saying that the tree will never bear fruit, and the tree ends up withering. This incident with the fig tree is then followed by a discussion with the chief priests in the Temple in which they admit that they rejected John the Baptist’s message of repentance. Jesus then tells the parable mentioned earlier in which one son says he will obey but does not and the other son says he will not obey but does. Jesus cursed the fig tree because it did not bear fruit. Similarly, Jesus says to the religious leaders that tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before they do.

Summarizing, the references to fig leaves and fruit all occur within a context of Jesus providing the fruit of personal transformation and healing while religious leaders are clinging to the fig leaves of religious ritual.

Returning now to Matthew 24, Jesus says, “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near” (Matt. 24:32). In other words, when religious leaders start rationalizing and turn religion into the wearing of fig leaves, then this is a sign that the ‘winter’ of absolute truth is about to be replaced by the ‘summer’ of rational understanding. Every person requires a set of core mental networks. If religion turns into formality, then this means that people have discovered an alternative set of core mental networks, and that these new mental networks have developed to the point of belittling a person’s concept of God and religion.

Jesus continues, “So, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He [it] is near, right at the door” (Matt. 24:33). (As before, ‘He’ is not in the original.) When absolute truth begins to crumble, the normal response is to try to reinforce absolute truth through some sort of religious revival that restores emotional intensity to the source of truth. It is important to realize that the solution lies on the other side of a doorway. One must leave the mental ‘room’ of absolute truth in order to enter the ‘room’ of universal truth, and these two mindsets are separated by what I call a threshold of confusion, an intermediate zone of confusion where emotional fervor is insufficient to support absolute truth and Perceiver confidence is insufficient to hold on to universal truth. This threshold of confusion can be seen in the mindset of the typical teenager, who is no longer a child but not yet an adult. However, while the answer lies on the other side of a mental doorway, it is also not far away, because Christianity teaches the right truth for inadequate reasons. When Christianity makes the transition from absolute truth to universal truth, then the facts themselves do not change. Instead, what changes is the basis for these facts. A similar mental transition occurs when learning the laws of science. The student initially believes these laws because the teacher says that they are true and a teacher is an important person. However, the student eventually believes these laws because they accurately describe how the natural world functions.

Similarly, Jesus says in verse 35 that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” There are two aspects to this statement. First, when one goes through the doorway from absolute truth to universal truth, one discovers that biblical content survives. Not only does it survive, but one realizes that the writer of the Bible is a Very Clever Person. Thus, one discovers that the words of Jesus do not pass away. Second, if one understands how the mind functions, then this provides the basis for a philosophy of science, as well as explaining how the spiritual and supernatural realms function. The book of Revelation says that the existing heaven and earth will eventually pass away and be replaced by a new spiritual form of existence in which external reality is in some way dependent upon internal content. Internal stability is not required to exist within current reality, because the laws of nature do not change. But if external reality were influenced in some spiritual manner by mental networks, then existing within this new reality would require internal content. In such a realm, one would have to build one’s very existence upon the words of Jesus because nothing else would be solid.

Jesus says in verse 34 that “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” When religious practice turns into mere fig leaves, then this will set in motion a cognitive process that will reach its conclusion before the ‘fig leaf’ generation passes away. Looking at this in more detail, children who grow up in such an environment will no longer see any reason to practice religion and will abandon the formalities of religion, but they will still be guided implicitly by the culture of religious morality. Their children will become post-religious and will reject absolute truth as a form of oppression by the elite upon the populace. When the second generation starts to openly reject absolute truth, some of their grandparents will still be alive, adrift in a new post-religious culture that they cannot comprehend. For instance, the city in which I live (Abbotsford, British Columbia) contains many churches filled with Christians of retirement age and older. Abbotsford is a relic of a bygone biblical faith that is only a few kilometers from the postmodern city of Vancouver. Abbotsford may be physically close to Vancouver, but the mindset of these two cities is worlds apart.

Cosmic Paradigm Shift

Jesus describes the transition to the new heaven and earth in verse 36: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Paul describes the same principle when talking about the Son handing over everything to the Father in 1 Corinthians 15. This type of transition requires a cosmic paradigm shift. Stated briefly, a concept of incarnation is based in Contributor-controlled technical thought, which is limited to making improvements within the current context. In order to move from one context to another, Contributor thought has to submit to Teacher thought, which is capable of replacing one paradigm with another. For instance, when making the transition from Judaism to Christianity, Jesus had to submit to the will of the Father in the Gthearden of Gethsemane and then go through a process of personal rebirth. Jesus does not say that the day or month of this paradigm shift is unknown, because one can tell that something is about to happen. Instead, Jesus says that the day and hour are not known, which implies that the precise timing is controlled by Teacher thought. When Contributor thought has to turn to another mental strategy for precise timing, then this signifies a loss of control, because Contributor thought is usually the mental strategy that controls precise timing.

(It appears that Jesus is looking more generally at what will pass away and what will not pass away when he talks in verse 35 about heaven and earth passing away, because that happens in Revelation 21, while the disassembling of the stones of absolute truth occurs in Revelation 6-9. However, both Revelation 11-12 and Revelation 21 involve a paradigm shift, as did the transition from Judaism to Christianity.)

Jesus compares the coming of the Son of Man with the days of Noah: “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:37-39).

Jesus compares peripheral needs with central needs in the Sermon on the Mount: “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matt. 6:25). Cognitively speaking, eating refers to consuming knowledge while drinking refers to the experiences of daily life. When the focus is upon eating and drinking, then people are being mentally driven by peripheral issues. This is also a neurological principle, because physical food and drink become the default motivating factors in the absence of higher motivation. Similarly, ‘marrying and giving in marriage’ implies that the focus is not upon long-term emotional commitment but rather upon extending the bottom-line thinking of buying and selling to the realm of core mental networks. A current example would be high-frequency trading, in which computers buy and sell stocks within a fraction of a second in order to make marginal gains. As of 2012, approximately half of US equity trading volume was in high-frequency trading. Obviously, when one holds onto a stock for a few seconds, then the long-term value of what one is buying or selling becomes essentially irrelevant. This is a dangerous practice, because if core mental networks are not protected, then they will eventually collapse, leading to a cataclysmic societal collapse.

Jesus says that only God the Father knows when the cosmic paradigm shift will occur. The phrase ‘until the day that Noah entered the ark’ suggests the type of reasoning that will guide God the Father. A general Teacher theory does not emerge out of a vacuum. Instead, Teacher thought forms a theory by taking some existing item and regarding it as more general than other items. This is like taking some person off the street and crowning this person monarch. Obviously, one can only choose an existing person to be a monarch. Similarly, it appears that some finite individual has to ‘build an ark’ and ‘enter this ark’ before God can ‘send the flood’.

Paul says something similar at the end of 2 Timothy: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7,8). Notice how Paul combines the three factors that we have just mentioned. Paul has laid the groundwork as a finite individual. This finite walk of faith will be crowned by God. And this helps prepare the way for the paradigm shift of ‘His appearing’.

Jesus continues, “Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left” (Matt. 24:40,41). We have seen the contrast between peripheral activity and core identity. A field implies some objective area of expertise, while home implies personal life. Food and drink refer to peripheral knowledge and skills, while the body describes personal identity. Both of these examples involve peripheral activity: two men are in the field; two women are grinding grain for food. Jesus is saying that the coming paradigm shift is not dependent upon such peripheral activity or ability. Saying this more simply, God will not save all electricians and abandon all plumbers. One doesn’t automatically become saved by becoming an electrician or automatically abandoned by becoming a plumber. Instead, what matters is one’s core mental networks, the underlying motivation that lies behind peripheral skills such as being an electrician or plumber. (I am not suggesting that occupation is irrelevant, because some occupations require personal integrity while other occupations make it difficult to preserve personal integrity. For instance, Jesus does not say that one soldier in battle will be taken and one will be left.)

Jesus then turns from the field to the house: “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will” (Matt. 24:42-44). I mentioned the danger of focusing upon peripheral growth while ignoring the core mental networks that make peripheral growth possible. Jesus gives a similar warning in this parable. The ‘thief who steals by stealth’ is ‘digging through the walls’ of the house. Similarly, the absolute truths that guide subjective existence are being stealthily eroded. This is happening during the nighttime, when there is no sun of a general understanding. People are not guarding against this erosion of core values and are being caught by surprise when the personal existence loses its value. Jesus adds that the cosmic paradigm shift will happen in a similar manner, in which people will be caught off guard by something for which they have not prepared, because they lack understanding.

The Faithful Slave

The final parable addresses the individuals who have been assigned the task of ‘building an ark’ in order to lay the foundation for the coming paradigm shift: “Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 24:45-51).

This parable refers to both house and food. The servant is in charge of the master’s household, implying that this person has been given a job by God that involves subjective existence. The job of the servant is to provide the right food at the right time. In other words, society as a whole is focusing upon peripheral intellectual food. But it is possible to guide society by providing the right food at the right time. When the cosmic paradigm shift occurs, then the servant who has performed this task will be rewarded, as Paul describes in 2 Timothy. And this reward will involve precisely what Teacher thought does when forming a general theory: ‘he will put him in charge of all of his possessions’. The specific person will be ‘crowned’—promoted to general manager.

But a servant can also neglect this responsibility: “But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 24:48-51). This servant is assuming that the paradigm shift will occur some time in the distant future: ‘my master is not coming for a long time’. As a result, this person is being guided by childish MMNs: ‘that morally rotten servant is saying in his heart’. And the servant is using Mercy status to impose truth upon others instead of sharing the appropriate message at the appropriate time: ‘begins to beat his fellow slaves’. Instead of focusing upon personal growth, the servant is being distracted by peripheral food and drink: ‘eat and drink’. And this eating and drinking is occurring with colleagues who ignore moral implications: ‘with drunkards’. This servant will acquire the general character of being driven by mental networks that are based in the status quo: ‘the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him’. And this inadequate paradigm will blind the servant to the facts of the situation: ‘at an hour which he does not know’. When the paradigm shift does occur, then this person’s core mental networks will be torn apart: ‘will cut him in pieces’.

The obedient servant was promoted by Teacher thought. The evil servant will also be labeled by Teacher thought—as a person upon whom one cannot build Teacher understanding. Teacher thought builds theories upon solid content provided by other forms of thought. A hypocrite says the right words but does not back up these words with solid content. Teacher thought hates to build a theory upon content that turns out to be unreliable.

For instance, for many years I worked on the theory of mental symmetry in collaboration with my brother, a Teacher person. Around 2004, we had a disagreement. My brother told me that if I continued to attend a Christian church, then I was a hypocrite who was not backing up my words with personal content. In contrast, I thought that isolating myself from others would be mentally damaging and lead to an inadequate concept of God and incarnation. As a result, my brother mentally ‘assigned me a place with the hypocrites’, and since then has regarded everything that I say as unreliable. My brother then developed a new general theory that excluded the primary concepts of the theory of mental symmetry. In other words, being ‘assigned a place with the hypocrites’ means far more than being slapped with a verbal label in Teacher thought. Instead, it means being treated henceforth as if one had never existed. Similarly, Thomas Kuhn says that when a scientific paradigm shift occurs, then history will be rewritten to make it appear as if no other paradigm ever existed.

Summarizing, a paradigm shift will promote faithful servants while eliminating evil servants.

Jesus says that ‘in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’. Teacher theories are emotional. When one becomes rejected as a hypocrite, then there will be deep emotional disappointment. One can imagine that these feelings of personal rejection would be quite strong if a cosmic paradigm shift occurred, because reality itself would continually convey the message that one had been excluded. Teeth are used to chew on food. When one uses critical thinking to eat intellectual food, one first pulls the facts apart by using rational thought to ‘chew on them’, and then uses Teacher thought to integrate these intellectual morsels into the general body of knowledge. ‘Gnashing of teeth’ implies that the chewing is still happening but Teacher thought is no longer building upon what is being chewed. It is as if a student is writing a research essay, handing it to the professor, and the professor is throwing it into the garbage without looking at it.

Luke gives a similar warning, but addresses it to everyone and not just to the head of a household: “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of all the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).

Growing up in a physical body naturally programs the mind with childish MMNs that drive a person to seek short-term sensory gratification without thinking about the implications or the long-term results. This type of mindset is enabled by drunken nausea and drunkenness. Personal transformation replaces childish MMNs with MMNs that are guided by a concept of God and the Holy Spirit. However, when one is attempting to pursue mental wholeness in a society that glorifies childish MMNs, and waiting for a paradigm shift from some unseen God, then the heart of personal identity can become ‘weighted down’ by childish MMNs. The worries of ‘biological life’ can also become an emotional burden. If personal identity is emotionally attached to childish and biological MMNs, then the paradigm shift will become a trap rather than a doorway into freedom. That is because a cosmic paradigm shift is universal. When God the Father makes a shift, then everything changes—it affects ‘all those who dwell on the face of all the earth’. Therefore, it is important to escape emotional bondage ‘at all times’. One does not escape emotional bondage to childish MMNs by denying the physical body or becoming a stoic, but rather by becoming emotionally connected to the TMN of a concept of God through prayer. And one does not just pray for good feelings or for understanding, because these are not enough. Instead, one prays for the power to follow a path of escape. This same combination can be seen in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

The ultimate goal is to be able to ‘stand before the Son of Man’. In other words, when the paradigm shift does occur, then one does not want to be driven by core MMNs to hide from incarnation. Jesus says something similar in John 3: “This is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (John 3:19-21).

Conclusion

I did not think that examining a single chapter in Matthew would turn into a 25 page essay. However, Jesus’ words are very dense, moving from one parable and analogy to another. The chapter began with the disciples asking what would happen when the stones of the Temple would be dismantled. And Jesus answer appears to describe quite clearly the process by which absolute religious truth becomes torn down and replaced by new stones of universal truth.

1 Thessalonians

I have added a brief discussion about 1 Thessalonians to the end of this essay because 1 Thessalonians appears to be addressed to a group of people who are waiting and preparing for the transition mentioned in Matthew 24. In addition, 1 Thessalonians 4 contains the well-known passage that provides the basis for the doctrine of the rapture. We began our examination of Matthew 24 by establishing a context. Namely, what specific question is Jesus addressing? We will also begin our look at 1 Thessalonians 4 by establishing a context. To whom is Paul writing this letter? On the surface, the answer to these questions is obvious. Jesus was talking about the destruction of the Temple while Paul was writing to the church in Thessalonica. But what is the cognitive context? Jesus is describing in Matthew 24 what happens when the stones of absolute religious truth are dismantled and replaced by rational thought. Similarly, I suggest that the book of 1 Thessalonians has a cognitive context that one can determine by examining the text from a cognitive perspective, using the same methodology that has been used to analyze other biblical texts.

This is not a detailed look at 1 Thessalonians. Instead, we will do an overview of the first three chapters and start examining the text in more detail when we arrive at the second half of the fourth chapter.

Chapter 1

Paul begins by saying that the Thessalonians have followed Teacher thought to such an extent that they have become examples to others: “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1:6,7). Joy is the emotion that comes from Teacher understanding. Joy of the Holy Spirit implies that a person is being emotionally guided by the Platonic forms of the Spirit that emerge as a result of Teacher understanding. This does not describe the thinking of the immature Christian but rather describes a mindset that is being guided by a rational concept of God. Going further, the Thessalonians are being an example to those who live within Greece—the source of rational thought.

The next verse says that the Thessalonians have not just talked about Teacher understanding but have also allowed these words to guide their personal actions: “For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything” (1:8). And Paul explicitly says that the Thessalonians have gone beyond a verbal understanding to an understanding that is applied in action: “For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (1:9). Instead of being driven by childish MMNs, they are following the TMN of a concept of God.

One might assume that Paul begins all of his letters in a similar manner, but that is not the case. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is the only one that begins with such a positive statement regarding the knowledge and understanding of his audience.

I have suggested in other essays that the path of personal transformation can be divided into the three stages of personal honesty, righteousness, and rebirth. Personal honesty uses rational thinking to construct a mental concept of God in Teacher thought, righteousness allows this TMN of God to guide personal actions in Server thought, while in rebirth childish MMNs fall apart and become reborn within the internal structure that was formed during the first two stages. Paul is clearly addressing an audience that has made it to the second stage of righteousness.

The final verse of chapter 1 tells us that this group is waiting for the opportunity to be able to live fully within the third stage of rebirth: “and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come” (1:10). In other words, the global transition described in Matthew 24 has not yet occurred, but the Thessalonians are following the path of personal transformation as far as possible in order to prepare for this coming paradigm shift.

I am not sure how much of this applied to the actual church in Thessalonica to which Paul was writing. Obviously, they were an example to those around them. However, I am assuming that the Bible has a single, coherent, universal message that transcends the historical message of the first century, and I have found that one finds such a single, coherent, universal message when one searches for it.

Chapter 2

Paul describes the response of the Thessalonians further in the next chapter: “We also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea” (2:13,14). Using cognitive language, Paul is saying that the Thessalonians have gone beyond absolute truth to universal truth. Instead of basing truth in MMNs of personal authority, they base it in the TMN of a concept of God. And instead of viewing Teacher theories as collection of words that one talks about, they recognize that words do things: ‘the word of God, which also performs its work in you’. Going further, a ‘church of God in Christ Jesus’ means submitting to a concept of incarnation as man-and-God that is based in a general Teacher understanding of God. (This is discussed in the essays on Revelation and 1 John.) And being imitators of churches in Judea implies that religious content is being followed and not rejected. This combination is essential because one must go beyond the mindset of fundamentalism while continuing to hold on to the content that is taught by biblical fundamentalism.

Paul ends this chapter by emphasizing how well the Thessalonians will do when the transition of Matthew 24 occurs: “For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy” (2:18-20).

Chapter 3

The beginning of chapter 3 refers to several elements that are mentioned in Matthew 24. Paul talks about being disturbed or moved by the squeezing of tribulation: “so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions” (3:3). Paul is also afraid that the Thessalonians have fallen away from the faith: “I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you” (3:5). And Paul gives an oblique reference to responding to extended pressure by remaining within rational thought: “Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone” (3:1). If anything would symbolize remaining within rational thought, it would be remaining ‘at Athens alone’, because Athens was the epicenter of Greek rational thought.

Paul finishes chapter 3 with another reference to the coming of Jesus: “May the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints” (3:12-13). Again the emphasis is upon becoming internally transformed by the TMN of a concept of God in order to prepare for the coming paradigm shift.

Chapter 4

This does not mean changing directions but rather following more fully the path that the Thessalonians already are following: “Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more” (4:1).

Paul then emphasizes the need for personal integrity in the subjective realm: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (4:3-5). Obviously, Paul’s instructions would apply literally, but I suggest that there is also a deeper cognitive meaning, which one can see by examining current society. When dealing with objective issues, rational thought is currently respected and followed. However, when it comes to subjective issues and personal morality, then rational thought is being suppressed and traditional moral restrictions are being rejected. Paul is emphasizing that one can find a Teacher reason for preserving personal integrity: ‘this is the will of God’. This is important, because current secular thought does not extend Teacher reasoning to personal integrity, while religious thought tries to base personal integrity in MMNs of absolute truth.

Summarizing, the context is consistent with a group of people waiting for the societal transition described in Matthew 24 to occur: 1) The squeezing of tribulation is mentioned several times, and the Great Tribulation occurs in Revelation 7, before the transition of Revelation 10. 2) No mention is made of the two beasts described in Revelation 13. 3) Paul’s instructions imply that society as a whole is following rational thinking but not in the personal realm of the subjective, consistent with the mindset of Revelation 6-9. 4) The Thessalonians are attempting to follow God in the midst of a society that submits to a different worldview, also consistent with the mindset of Revelation 6-9.

The Rapture?

Now that the context has been established, let us examine the passage on the second coming. Paul is addressing the question of those who have already died: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope” (4:13). The word sleep usually means physical sleep, but Jesus used it to refer to the physical death of Lazarus in John 11. Similarly, Paul contrasts ‘we who are alive’ with ‘those who have fallen asleep’ in verse 15. Using the word ‘sleep’ implies that physical death is not the end but rather a temporary change in personal existence. And Paul explicitly compares the mindset of those he is writing to with those who think that death is the end: ‘so that you will not grieve as do the rest with no hope’. (I do not think that the doctrine of soul sleep is valid, because Revelation makes it clear that people continue to think and behave in a conscious manner when they die.)

The next verse describes which dead Paul is referring to: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus” (4:14). Absolute truth views incarnation as Jesus-the-man, described in the Gospels, and mentally represented by an MMN with great emotional status. Universal truth, in contrast, views incarnation as Jesus Christ the God/man, mentally represented by a TMN of universal principles that were expressed through the life of Jesus-the-man.

We have seen that 1 Thessalonians is addressed to a group of Christians who have a reasonably adequate concept of Jesus Christ as both man and God. In simple terms, these people are wondering what happens to the fundamentalist Christian who dies with an inadequate concept of incarnation. Using the language of Paul, what happens to ‘those who have fallen asleep in Jesus’?

Paul’s answer uses the logic of incarnation as man-and-God. Jesus-the-man died and rose again. If this is a universal principle, then it also applies to the fundamentalist Christian who dies and goes to heaven. He will not be left behind by God but will also be mentally reborn. One might think that this is an irrelevant question because the common Christian belief is that ‘everyone becomes instantly perfect the moment they enter heaven’. But Revelation clearly shows that heaven and its inhabitants go through stages of cognitive development.

Remember the general context. The Thessalonians are following universal truth in a society that believes in absolute truth; they are following rational understanding in a society that practices fundamentalism. It is tempting for such a group to write off fundamentalist Christians as spiritually deficient. Paul is saying that the fundamentalist Christian believer is not stuck forever within a second class version of heaven, but that God is able to ‘bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus’, and he proves this by appealing to the universal nature of the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

The next verse presents another universal principle: “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep” (4:15). Paul is saying that people like the Thessalonians who are preparing themselves internally for the coming paradigm shift will not precede those who have died and gone to heaven. In other words, a cosmic paradigm shift begins in heaven and then becomes apparent on earth. For instance, the second cycle of Revelation 12-19 begins with Satan being cast out of heaven in Revelation 12 before leading to a transformed society on earth. Paul is presenting this as a general theory: ‘the word of the Lord’. Using cognitive language, the general principle is that transformation begins with Teacher understanding before it affects personal reality in Mercy thought.

Paul then mentions four elements which describe change that starts with Teacher thought: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God” (4:16). 1) ‘The Lord himself will descend from heaven’. Heaven is a place where one lives within Teacher thought. Someone who is in charge—the lord—is descending from the realm of Teacher thought. 2) The word shout is literally ‘a word of command’. Teacher thought is the source of words, and a word of command is being given that affects reality. 3) ‘With the voice of the archangel’. The word angel means ‘messenger’, and angels appear to live in a realm of Teacher messages, just as humans live within a realm of Mercy experiences. The voice of the archangel implies that a being with authority who lives within Teacher thought is expressing Teacher words. 4) ‘With the trumpet of God’. The word trumpet actually means ‘a war trumpet that boldly announces God’s victory’. Again we see that Teacher thought is proclaiming something new, because a concept of God is based in a general Teacher theory.

One can find four similar elements at the end of Revelation 11: 1) God is taking charge: “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign” (11:17). 2) God is giving commands: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ” (11:15). 3) Heavenly beings are speaking out: “And there were loud voices in heaven” (11:15). 4) An angel is blowing the seventh trumpet: “Then the seventh angel sounded” (11:15).

Similar elements are also present in Matthew 24: 1) God the Father is in charge: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (24:36). 2) A new kingdom is being unveiled: “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds in the sky with power and great glory” (24:30). 3) Angels are being sent: “And he will send forth his angels...” (24:31). 4) A trumpet is proclaiming a universal victory: “...with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (24:31).

I suggest that both the end of Revelation 11 and Matthew 24 describe the theoretical return of Christ. Until now, those who follow God have been on the defensive, trying to survive within a godless worldview. The theoretical return of Christ indicates the unveiling of God and Christianity as a paradigm based in Teacher thought. From now on, the world will be on the defensive, trying to protect itself from the growing TMN of a concept of God. In the words of Revelation, “You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth” (15:17,18). God is starting to reign, and the nations are responding with anger. God is starting to reward those who have followed him. Notice that John talks about both the living and the dead being rewarded by God, which relates to 1 Thessalonians comparing ‘we who are alive’ with ‘those who have fallen asleep’.

Paul said in verse 14 that those ‘who have fallen asleep in Jesus’ will not be left behind. In verse 16, Paul says that ‘the dead in Christ will rise first’. The general principle is that change starts in Teacher thought before affecting Mercy thought. This means that heaven will be transformed first, and then heaven will cause earth to be transformed. But it also means that those who follow Teacher thought in heaven (the dead in Christ) will be transformed before those who follow Mercy thought in heaven (fallen asleep in Jesus).

This is what one finds in Revelation 14, because a new group appears in heaven, whose personal identities are based in a Teacher understanding of God and incarnation: “having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads” (14:1). This new group sings a new song that the others in heaven cannot sing: “They sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth” (14:3).

This transformation in heaven is immediately followed by an angel announcing that earth will be transformed: “And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come’” (14:6,7).

Returning to 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul says, “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (4:17). The same symbology of Christ gathering his followers together in the clouds of the air can be found in Matthew 24: “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together his elect from the four winds, for an end of the sky to the other” (24:30,31). As I pointed out previously when looking at Matthew 24, everything mentioned about the return of Christ is occurring in the air, implying that this is a theoretical return of Christ that is limited to the air of Teacher theory.

I strongly suspect that this theoretical return will be more than simply the unveiling of a verbal theory. Revelation 11 begins by describing two messengers delivering a verbal message from God. This message is associated with great power, but this power portrays symbolically the power of a general Teacher theory. For instance, the ‘fire flowing out of their mouths and devouring enemies’ mentioned in verse 5 is symbolic of how a general Teacher theory emotionally devours competing theories. Thus, the beginning of Revelation 11 may be describing the proclaiming of a purely verbal understanding. My personal experience is that society can successfully suppress a general theory that is limited to words, and verse 7 says that the message is eventually suppressed by killing the two messengers. But the message is then reborn into something more potent by God, and this reborn message is so powerful that “great fear fell upon those who were watching” (11:11). The theoretical return of Christ occurs after the message is reborn, implying that this is less than a physical return but more than just a verbal theory.

Revelation 11 says that God’s reign will not come to an end: “And he will reign for ever and ever” (11:15). Similarly, Paul says in 1 Thessalonians that “so shall we always be with the Lord” (4:13). If Jesus is merely an important man represented by an MMN in Mercy thought, then being always with the Lord would mean being physically present with Jesus. But if Jesus is both God and man, then this would mean always being within the plan of incarnation, which is the impression that one gains from the new group described in Revelation 14: “These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes” (14:4). I do not think that this phrase is referring to 144,000 people physically following a baby sheep. Instead, I suggest that it symbolizes a group of people following the plan of incarnation regardless of where this leads.

Summarizing, 1 Thessalonians 4 appears to be focusing upon the sequence of transformation, guided by the general principle that transformation begins in heaven. This principle is illustrated by science and technology. Technology has totally transformed the physical world. But this physical transformation was preceded by a scientific revolution that introduced new general theories to the intellectual heaven of Teacher thought. Going the other way, physical transformation will not last if it is not preceded by a mental paradigm shift. For instance, Western powers recently attempted to transform the society of Iraq and Afghanistan through the use of military force. This attempt was a costly failure because the mindset of those countries remained unchanged.

That is why I suggest that it is flawed to view 1 Thessalonians as describing a rapture that is followed by a Great Tribulation in which God unleashes physical terror upon the earth. If it did not work when America unleashed physical terror upon the Middle East, then why would it work if God unleashed physical terror upon the world? Instead, what is really needed is the paradigm shift of a new general understanding in Teacher thought, because this will lay the foundation for successfully transforming the world. In the words of the apostle James, “The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the world implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:20-22). Saying this cognitively, anger that is based in personal MMNs will not reflect the TMN of a concept of God. Therefore, one must stop trying to impose personal MMNs, let go of childish MMNs, and allow the TMN of a concept of God to guide Server actions.

Applying this to current society, America needs to stop invading other countries and start accepting the word of God in an attitude of humility. American Christians need to stop preaching the word of God and start practicing what they preach. American Protestant Christians are ‘merely hearers who delude themselves’ when they think that a God of righteousness is going to adopt American methods of ‘spreading civilization’ by pummeling enemies with physical weapons, while rescuing them from personal hardship through some rapture. I know that these are strong words, but the 16 volume Left Behind series portrays this version of the rapture and the Apocalypse, and 65 million books from this series have been sold, telling us that many American Christians believe that God will adopt American methods. And America has just elected a president who epitomizes this mindset. I suggest that this is a cognitive result of the equating God and country. Because God is invisible while country can be seen and experienced, mental networks that represent country will end up shaping one’s concept of God.

John Darby

The doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture was first proposed and popularized by John Darby in 1827. I have noticed when analyzing theologians and philosophers that a distinction needs to be made between a person’s explicit concept of God and an implicit concept of God. An explicit concept of God is the one that a person explicitly talks about, guided by logical analysis and biblical exegesis. An implicit concept of God emerges from a person’s habits, social interaction, occupation, and culture—the structure of an individual’s personal life. These two concepts of God are often not the same, and the God that a person really worships and obeys is usually the implicit concept of God. Saying this another way, theology cannot be separated from personal behavior. Either one walks in righteousness by allowing an explicit concept of God to guide personal behavior, or one becomes ruled by an implicit concept of God that is based in personal behavior.

Applying this principle to John Darby, did he come up with the doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture because this is what the Bible says or because it was consistent with his implicit concept of God? One can examine this question by looking at the personal behavior of John Darby. Darby was one of the founders of the Plymouth Brethren, who responded to the evil of their world by withdrawing from the established church to form a separate group, guided only by the Bible. Quoting from Wikipedia, “The origins of the Brethren are usually traced to Dublin, Ireland where several groups of Christians met informally to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together in 1827–8. Of these, the central figures were Anthony Norris Groves, a dentist studying theology at Trinity College, Edward Cronin, studying medicine, John Nelson Darby, then a curate in County Wicklow, and John Gifford Bellett, a lawyer who brought them together. ‘A circle was to be drawn just wide enough to include “all the children of God,” and to exclude all who did not come under that category.’ They did not require ministers or even an order of service. Their guide was to be the Bible alone.” Darby’s doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture grew directly out of these early meetings: “An important early stimulus was in the study of prophecy which was the subject of a number of annual meetings at Powerscourt House in County Wicklow starting in 1831. Lady Powerscourt had attended Henry Drummond’s prophecy conferences at Albury Park and, in 1831, Darby was espousing the same pre-tribulational view of the future as the charismatic Edward Irving.” Thus, at the same time that Darby was promoting the doctrine that God would rapture true believers from the earth, Darby and his fellow Plymouth brethren were ‘rapturing’ themselves from the ‘earth’ of official Christianity.

The doctrine of the rapture teaches that God will follow the rapture by imposing judgment upon those who have rejected Him. Darby treated his religious opponents in a similar manner. For instance, one biography relates that “While in Chicago on one occasion Mr. Darby was invited by D. L. Moody to give a series of Bible readings in Farwell Hall. These were attended by many lovers of the Word of GOD, but unfortunately suddenly came to an abrupt end as the two clashed over the question of the freedom of the will. Mr. Darby held to what Mr. Moody considered extreme Calvinism on this point, affirming that so perverted was man’s will he could not ‘will’ even to be saved… Mr. Moody insisted that man as a responsible person was appealed to by GOD to turn to Him and would be condemned if he did not… The controversy became so heated one day that Mr. Darby suddenly closed his Bible and refused to go on, thus losing one of the great opportunities of his life, as it will seem to many. Separating from Mr. Moody, Darby did not hesitate to condemn Mr. Moody’s work in his characteristic way. In his letters he warned his followers against it as likely to bring a great increase of worldliness into the Church.” The doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture teaches that God, up in heaven with His true believers, will impose His judgment upon earth from heaven. Similarly, Darby, up in ‘heaven’ with his ‘true believers’ of the Plymouth brethren, imposed his judgment upon Christian leaders like Dwight L. Moody, who were ‘likely to bring a great increase of worldliness into the church’. And why did this split happen? Because Moody would not subscribe to Darby’s concept of a Calvinistic God who imposes his judgment upon evil people. Thus, one concludes that Darby’s doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture is consistent with his implicit concept of God, and one can also see that Darby is worshiping and serving his implicit concept of God.

Darby’s typical response to dissent was to retreat to an isolated ‘heaven’ of true believers, and then rain judgment down upon his adversaries. Quoting further from Wikipedia, “The Plymouth Brethren split into Exclusive and Open Brethren in 1848 when George Müller refused to accept John Nelson Darby's view of the relationship between local assemblies following difficulties in the Plymouth meeting. Brethren that held Muller’s congregational view became known as ‘Open’, those holding Darby’s ‘connexional’ view, became known as ‘Exclusive’ or ‘Darbyite’ Brethren. Darby’s circular on 26 August 1848, cutting off not only Bethesda but all assemblies who received anyone who went there, was to define the essential characteristic of ‘exclusivism’ that he was to pursue for the rest of his life. He set it out in detail in a pamphlet he issued in 1853 entitled Separation from Evil - God’s Principle of Unity.”

First, this is not just an isolated incident, but rather defines ‘the essential characteristic of exclusivism that he was to pursue for the rest of his life’. Second, one can see from the title of the pamphlet that Darby is rationalizing his exclusivism by appealing to his concept of God. Third, Darby is responding to dissent by personally initiating a church split, leading in this case to the formation of the Darbyite Exclusive Brethren. Thus, one concludes that Darby’s doctrine of a pre-tribulation rapture asserts that God will treat humanity the same way that Darby treats others. Similarly, we saw previously that most American evangelical prophecy assumes that God will treat humanity the same way that America treats the rest of the world.

Obviously, this principle applies to me as well. I grew up in an evangelical church that taught Darby’s doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture. But my cognitive research has constructed an implicit concept of God within my mind that does not match Darby’s concept of God. My analysis of eschatology began a year ago when I read Revelation 10 and realized to my shock that the biblical text was resonating with my implicit concept of God. I kept reading through Revelation and the text kept making sense: The Bible was describing in symbolic language the path of cognitive transformation that I have been struggling for decades to follow.

If an implicit concept of God has such a major impact upon how one interprets the Bible, then how can one determine who is interpreting the Bible correctly and who is not? Saying this another way, if one can only see by viewing the world through some set of cognitive glasses, how can one compare one set of glasses with another? I suggest that the answer lies in completeness and clarity. A good set of glasses provides a clear view of more of the world than a poor set of glasses. Thus, I suggest that the theory of mental symmetry provides a good set of glasses because one can see many subjects with considerable clarity. In contrast, Darby’s Exclusive Brethren have been characterized by a succession of church splits. Instead of being able to see more, Darby’s glasses have repeatedly motivated his followers to restrict their vision to a smaller, more exclusive, world.

The Day of the Lord

Returning now to 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5 begins by describing the prevailing mindset just before the theoretical return of Christ.

I have suggested that Paul is writing to a group of people who are trying to follow a rational concept of God before this rational understanding has become unveiled. Consistent with this, Thessalonians 5 consistently describes the Thessalonians as having understanding, starting with verse 1: “Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you” (5:1).

Paul then refers to an image from the parable of ‘the thief in the night’ that Jesus mentions in Matthew 24: “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night” (5:2). Paul emphasizes that the Thessalonians are not walking in the dark like others: “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness” (5:4,5). The term ‘sons of day’ is significant for two reasons: First, ‘day’ implies the presence of the Teacher ‘sun’ of a general understanding, again indicating the type of audience to whom Paul is writing. Second, ‘son’ tells us that MMNs of personal identity have been transformed. Such a person does not just have an understanding, but has become personally reborn to become a person whose behavior naturally reflects this understanding.

Paul exhorts his audience to continue walking along the path that they are already following: “Let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:6-9). Paul is referring here to another parable of Jesus found in Matthew 24, that of the evil slave who drinks with drunkards. Again, Paul is assuming that his audience does not ‘sleep as others do’, but rather is ‘of the day’.

It is interesting that Paul mentions the three characteristic traits that he says will survive in 1 Corinthians 13, which are faith, hope, and love. Helmet is mentioned twice in the New Testament, and the other occurrence is in Ephesians 6 as part of the ‘armor of God’. In Ephesians, Paul refers to the helmet of salvation, while in 1 Thessalonians Paul describes the helmet as the hope of salvation, again implying that a group of people is looking forward to some sort of salvation that has not yet been revealed.

In contrast, society will be focusing verbally upon peace and security: “While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape” (5:3). The word translated destruction means sudden ruin and not annihilation. Paul does not say that there will be peace and security, but rather that people will be talking about peace and security. That accurately describes the mindset of today, because people are continually talking about peace and security and are willingly giving up their rights in order to achieve a feeling of peace and security. But what is actually being experienced is episodes of sudden destruction.

Maintaining a Positive Focus

Matthew 24 emphasizes that one should focus upon the positive results that will occur at the end of this transformation. Similarly, Paul describes this unsettled time as the labor pains of the birth of new life. This is a significant point, which I would like to examine briefly from a personal perspective.

When one becomes personally committed to the light of a Teacher understanding and is surrounded by individuals who are walking in darkness, then it is tempting to give up and mentally fall asleep, or ignore the facts and become cognitively drunk. What is the point of having an understanding if all this does is reveal the insanity of society? What is the point of seeing when seeing hurts so much? Wouldn’t it be better just to be blind like others? I have often asked myself these questions. (The other trap is to write people off and stop learning from others. However, most people today are experts in some aspect of existence, and it is important to continue learning from others in their areas of expertise, while at the same time recognizing that a general understanding of larger principles is usually not present.)

Paul provides three answers: First, he emphasizes that life is a battle, mentioning the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of the hope of salvation. One does not normally associate these positive traits with fighting a battle, but when one lives in a society that prefers darkness to light, then holding on to light becomes a battle. Second, Paul emphasizes the positive, personal goal of salvation: “For God has not destined us to wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (5:9). Stated simply, the primary goal is not to preach to others but rather to save myself. I cannot force others to listen to understanding, but I can apply an understanding personally. Third, I have learned from personal experience that it is possible to maintain a positive focus as long as one continues to make personal progress. In the words of Paul, “Encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (5:11).

The next verses emphasize maintaining a positive focus: “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks” (5:15-18). Praying brings specific issues to the attention of a concept of God in Teacher thought, while giving thanks recognizes that specific situations are being guided by a concept of God in Teacher thought. Whenever a Teacher theory is able to explain more specific situations, then this increases the generality of the theory, generating positive Teacher emotion. Therefore, placing specific issues under the guidance of a concept of God in Teacher thought will generate positive Teacher emotion, which will balance the pain of continually experiencing the foolishness of society. When one is ‘a son of the day’ living in a society of darkness, then praying without ceasing and giving thanks in everything become essential for maintaining one’s emotional well-being. Notice that Paul is using universal language, because Teacher thought wants general theories to apply without exception, and will feel bad when there is an exception to the general rule. Thus, it is not enough to pray, but one must pray without ceasing. And it is not enough to give thanks but one must always give thanks.

Paul’s command to ‘pray without ceasing’ is used to justify the Orthodox Christian practice of hesychasm, which attempts to achieve a feeling of mystical union with God by combining Eastern mysticism with endless repetition of the Jesus prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Orthodox Christianity has to go to substantial lengths to distinguish its version of ‘praying without ceasing’ from Eastern mysticism. In contrast, I suggest that Paul is talking about being guided by a universal understanding in Teacher thought, and not referring to the endless repetition of some set of words, no matter how good these words are. Looking at this cognitively, I suggest that hesychasm is being guided by a faulty concept of universality. If I repeat some set of Teacher words everywhere I go, then these words will feel like a universal theory, but it is my repetition that is making these words feel universal. In contrast, a truly universal theory explains everything because it is based in a character trait of God as revealed in the structure of the universe, the structure of the mind, and the structure of God’s interacting with humanity. Saying this more simply, universal theories are discovered and not created. However, if one insists, as Orthodox Christianity does, that God is beyond all structure, then one will not search the structure of creation to discover universal theories that reveal character traits of God.

The word without ceasing literally means ‘without any gaps’. In other words, there should not be any gaps in one’s Teacher understanding of the character of God, because Teacher thought finds exceptions to the rule emotionally troubling, and the person who is trying to follow Teacher thought in the midst of chaos and insanity will need all the emotional help that Teacher thought can provide. Leaving gaps in a general Teacher understanding will prevent Teacher thought from providing this emotional help.

The phrase ‘in everything give thanks’ is also sometimes misinterpreted as thanking God for everything. For instance, if one loses one’s leg to cancer, then one is supposed to thank God for this situation. (Someone just told me this specific example ten minutes ago.) But giving thanks to God in everything is quite different than giving thanks to God for everything. Giving thanks in everything submits every specific situation to the TMN of a universal concept of God, recognizing that God can bring good results out of evil events. Giving thanks for everything molds a concept of God to fit my personal MMNs—and results in the twisted concept of a God who is a source of evil. (Bitterness should also be avoided, because it too clings to MMNs of personal experience rather than submitting to the TMN of God.) Paul keeps emphasizing in 1 Thessalonians that Christ will return. Thus, the goal is not to learn how to survive in a world of evil but rather to prepare for a coming of Christ that will destroy evil and bring personal salvation. One should not embrace the evil of life but rather embrace goodness while keeping evil at a distance, which is precisely what Paul says: “Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (5:21,22). The word translated abstain means ‘to hold back, keep off, be distant’.

Looking at these verses in more detail, Paul says, “Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil” (5:19-22). Cognitively speaking, spirit describes the Platonic forms of perfection that emerge as a result of Teacher understanding. Saying this more simply, when one follows understanding in the midst of the society that is walking in darkness, then one will acquire strong internal images of how much better things could be if the existing fragments of society were rearranged in a different way. There will be a strong emotional contrast between external experiences of how rotten things are, and the internal vision of how good things could be if people stopped being so childish and stupid. The temptation will be to eliminate this emotional stress by shutting down one’s internal vision. Paul is warning against this when he says ‘Do not quench the Spirit’.

Prophecy is discussed in 1 Corinthians 14. In brief, prophecy applies abstract theory using words and pictures that others can grasp. Spirit focuses upon internal images of ‘new and improved’ existence while prophecy describes the knowledge and structure that make this new and improved existence possible. Paul says that prophecy should not be ‘despised or treated with contempt’. Cognitively speaking, it is easy to belittle facts that do not fit within the current context. That is because Facilitator thought, which acts as the filter for the mind, will naturally reject information that is regarded as unreasonable. When one is living in a society of darkness, it is unreasonable to talk about understanding and light. Therefore, there will be a natural tendency to despise prophecy because it violates the status quo. The Facilitator filter of reasonableness plays an essential role, because it prevents the mind from being overwhelmed by a flood of irrelevant information. But it leads in this case to a struggle between rational thought and reasonableness. Rational thought is being guided by understanding to predict how much better things could be, while reasonableness is rejecting rational thought, guided by experiences from the current environment, leading to comments such as ‘That could never happen because it totally violates the norms of current society’. However, society does occasionally go through massive shifts.

For instance, my parents had friends in East Germany. My parents visited these friends several times in the 1980s, and in one of these visits dad suggested to the father of the family that it might be possible for them to visit us in Canada. The East German father laughed in response because he knew that this idea was completely impossible. Using religious language, he despised the prophecy because it violated his filter of reasonableness. And yet, a few years later the wall came down and these East German people did come to visit us in Canada.

Paul finishes the letter by referring again to the coming of Christ: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (5:23,24).

Notice that Paul describes God as a God of peace, and not as a God of warfare who is about to unleash terror on earth. Paul’s desire is for the Thessalonians to be totally prepared for the coming paradigm shift, so that they can enter fully into what will be revealed: ‘may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete’. Paul’s hope includes the spiritual, the cognitive, and the physical. And he emphasizes that God will be faithful both to make them ready for the coming paradigm shift and to institute this paradigm shift: ‘Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass’.

2 Thessalonians

Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians also focuses upon the coming of Christ. But the topics and the flavor are quite different. Before looking at the text, let us summarize the major differences:

  • The coming of Christ in 1 Thessalonians is described as something that occurs up in the air in the clouds, consistent with the end of Revelation 11. In contrast, the coming of Christ described in 2 Thessalonians 1 is full of judgment and retribution, consistent with Revelation 19.
  • 1 Thessalonians emphasizes preparing for the coming of Christ. 2 Thessalonians 2 says that the coming of Christ will not occur right away but rather be preceded by apostasy.
  • 2 Thessalonians 2 describes the revealing of the antichrist, who is not mentioned 1 Thessalonians.

Putting this together, the conclusion is that 2 Thessalonians relates primarily to Revelation 12-13. The theoretical return of Christ has occurred, and people are expecting more of the same. But Paul says that the backlash described in Revelation 13 must happen first before Christ returns in power.

These three points can be seen most clearly at the beginning of chapter 2: “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction” (2:1-3).

This passage has several interesting features. Paul associates ‘the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ with ‘our gathering together to Him’. Similarly, Matthew 24 describes the coming of the Son of Man as ‘gathering together his elect from the four winds’, while 1 Thessalonians 4 talks about being ‘caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air’. This suggests that all three passages are referring to the same theoretical return of Christ. The word translated ‘with regard to’ is ‘usually best translated for the betterment or advantage of, focusing on benefit’. More literally, Paul is saying, “We request you, brethren, for the benefit or betterment of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him...” The implication is that this ‘gathering together’ is something that is currently happening at that time and Paul wants to make sure that this process is not derailed. First, he does not want them to be shaken in their reasoning or intellect, consistent with the idea that ‘gathering together… from one end of the sky to the other’ is an intellectual gathering in which all thought and activity is being placed within the universal theory of Jesus-as-God. Second, he does not want them to ‘be disturbed either by a spirit or message or a letter’. If the coming of Christ described in Revelation 11 were some great physical cataclysm, then a mere word or letter would not disturb people’s thinking. But if this coming is primarily the theoretical unveiling of a general Teacher theory of Christ as God, then words or letters could have a great disturbing impact. Similarly, the Platonic forms of spirit emerge as an indirect result of Teacher understanding. Therefore, an inadequate understanding could lead to a troubled spirit. Third, Paul emphasizes that an apostasy has to occur before the day of the Lord arrives. The day of the Lord is typically portrayed as a time of great divine judgment. Paul is emphasizing that this divine judgment will not occur right away, again implying that what has been unveiled so far is primarily a general theory of Christ.

Summarizing, the gathering together in the clouds is not something that happens instantaneously, but rather a process of bringing all thought and activity under the umbrella of the general theory of incarnation that has been unveiled in the theoretical return of Christ. This will not lead immediately to the judgment of the day of the Lord, because the implicit core mental networks of society first have to be made explicit. Once the core motivations of society have become unveiled, then God can use the theoretical return of Christ as a starting point for addressing these core problems. Saying this more simply, the theoretical return of Christ has established a beachhead in the enemy country. This beachhead will bring the enemy out into the open, which will then make it possible to defeat the enemy.

Now that we have established the context, let us work our way through the book.

Chapter 1

Paul opens the letter with a greeting that is unique to 1 and 2 Thessalonians: “To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1). None of the other Pauline epistles talk about the church being in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Cognitively speaking, this means being guided by the TMN of a concept of God expressed through an integrated concept of incarnation.

As before, the Thessalonian church is an example to other churches: “Your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure” (1:3,4). If one compares this with the opening of 1 Thessalonians, one notices a few subtle differences.

1 Thessalonians talks about perseverance of hope, indicating that they are waiting for something that has not yet appeared. In contrast, 2 Thessalonians talks about perseverance in persecution and tribulation. Tribulation means squeezing, and this term also occurs several times in 1 Thessalonians. Persecution is not mentioned in 1 Thessalonians and it ‘refers to those seeking to punish God’s messengers with a vengeance – like a hunter trying to conquer’. In other words, 1 Thessalonians occurs during the time of squeezing of Revelation 6 – 9, when everything and everyone is being squeezed into the confines of technical thought. The context for 2 Thessalonians is different. An integrated understanding of God in incarnation has been revealed, and society is explicitly trying to eliminate this message by attacking the messengers. Consistent with this, Paul refers to the ‘churches of God’, implying that Christians are now being guided by the TMN of a concept of God. The same phrase also occurs several times in 1 Corinthians, starting with chapter 10, and I suggest that 1 Corinthians 10-15 also applies to the period after the theoretical return of Christ.

Paul adds that “This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering” (1:5). The word translated considered worthy is an economic term that refers to determining exact worth on a balance scale. The essay on 1 Corinthians examines the concept of an incarnational economy. One becomes worthy not by working to earn salvation, but rather by experiencing personal inadequacy and then responding by following God in righteousness. The message of incarnation is a message of personal rebirth. Paul makes it clear in the beginning of 1 Corinthians that the message of rebirth will naturally be rejected by secular society, and that this rejection will force those who proclaim the message of rebirth to go through the process of rebirth. In other words, God is showing that He judges righteously by forcing those who understand the kingdom of God to turn words into practice—to go beyond correct theology to righteous character. The kingdom of God is not earned but rather inherited. One must pay the price of becoming reborn as an individual who is capable of living in the kingdom of God.

The next verses say that those who do not pay the price of becoming righteous will not be capable of living in the kingdom of God: “For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (1:6-9). Righteousness means behaving in a way that is consistent with universal laws. God is described as righteous (the word translated just) because he will eventually treat others the same way that he is now treating those who are following an understanding of God: ‘It is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you’. And the word repay means ‘to give back as an equivalent’.

This judgment will affect two groups of people: First, those ‘who do not know God’, telling us that what matters is the TMN of a concept of God. Second, those ‘who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus’, describing those who do not apply the verbal message of incarnation. Both of these groups lack righteousness, because righteousness means being guided by the TMN of a concept of God, which is only possible if one has mentally constructed a concept of God. The penalty is eternal ‘ruination with its full destructive results’. That is because a concept of God is based in an understanding of eternal principles that describe how things work. If one is not guided by such an understanding, then one will experience continual ruination because one will continually function in a manner that is inconsistent with how things work. And such individuals will also be ‘away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power’. That is because mental networks are threatened with inconsistent input. If a person is guided by core mental networks that are inconsistent with the eternal character of God, then these core mental networks will emotionally drive a person to avoid the presence of God. Saying this another way, such an a person has not become reborn as an individual who is capable of living in the kingdom of God.

Paul then refers to the judgment of God that is described in Revelation 16-19. 2 Thessalonians mentions ‘when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution’. Similarly, Revelation says, “I heard the angel of the waters saying, ‘Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it’” (Rev. 16:5,6). Notice the combination of righteous judgment being administered from God through the angels as a recompense to those who persecute the ‘saints and prophets’. And the revelation of of Jesus from heaven with flames of fire can be seen in the concrete return of Christ, described in Revelation 19: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire” (Rev. 19:11,12). Thus, 2 Thessalonians is looking forward to the bowls of wrath of Revelation 16, and the coming of Christ described in Revelation 19, consistent with the idea that the theoretical coming of Christ in Revelation 11 has already occurred.

Verse 10 makes it clear that this will be a visible coming and not just something theoretical: “When He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed” (1:10). The word marvel means to be ‘astonished out of one’s senses; awestruck’, and all the Biblical occurrences describe people responding to something amazing that is being physically sensed. Paul says that those who have believed will be ‘astonished out of their senses’, telling us that even those who are following God will be ‘freaked out’ when they physically see the implications of the path that they have been following by faith.

Because of this, Paul prays that those who believe will be counted worthy of their verbal calling by applying their verbal understanding: “To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power” (1:11). And Paul recognizes that the theoretical return of Jesus will be transformed into reality through individuals who are being guided by a concept of God and incarnation: “So that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:12).

Summarizing, God is currently using persecution and tribulation to transform a verbal understanding of God into righteous character that expresses this understanding. Becoming transformed is essential, because those who lack this transformation will run away from God when Christ fully appears, while even those who are transformed will be shocked by the implications that become apparent when Christ appears.

Chapter 2

We now come to the passage that was discussed at the beginning of our look at 2 Thessalonians. We have just seen the God plays for keeps with high stakes. Most Christianity that is practiced today does not extend to core mental networks. For instance, I lived in Korea for several years and discovered that the Christianity that is practiced there is usually a combination of Christian belief and Confucianism, just as most American Christianity is a combination of Christian belief and consumerism. If the core mental networks of human society are to be transformed, then they must first be revealed, and this revealing can be seen in 2 Thessalonians 2: “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2:3,4).

This describes a belligerent version of mysticism. Mysticism combines Teacher overgeneralization with Mercy identification. Overgeneralization comes up with a universal theory in Teacher thought by ignoring factual content, which leads to a vague concept of universal oneness. For instance, overgeneralization drives people to make statements such as ‘All Muslims are terrorists’. Statements such as these generate Teacher emotions of universality, but they also ignore inconvenient facts, such as the fact that my next-door Muslim neighbor is not a terrorist. Mercy identification then pretends that personal identity is the same as this universal oneness—again by ignoring factual content. The end result is some variation of the mystical belief that ‘all is one’ and ‘I am God’. Overgeneralization can coexist with factual content if the theory of oneness is considered to be more general than anything else, which explains why mysticism always insists that God transcends rational thought.

Turning now to 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul mentions ‘the man of lawlessness’. The word translated lawlessness is anomia, which literally means without law. When one uses overgeneralization to come up with the concept of God, then one must suppress the very concept of moral law, because moral standards imply content, and overgeneralization cannot handle content. For instance, Martin Buber was a German philosopher who try to combine Buddhism with rational thought. He was unable to add moral content to his mysticism even when faced with the horror of the Jewish Holocaust. Quoting from a paper delivered at the hundredth anniversary of his birth, “Buber’s silence on the Holocaust as a theological issue is altogether consistent with his view of the divine-human encounter. For Buber, that encounter is utterly removed from all of the categories of normal human experience. It is atemporal, non-spatial, non-causal, and, in fact, devoid of the kind of any content that could be shared in normal discourse.”

The man of lawlessness ‘opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship’. We see here the transcendent nature of mysticism, which can only survive by replacing existing core mental networks and exalting itself above all other thought.

The man of lawlessness is a ‘son of destruction’. The word translated destruction has the same Greek root as the name Apollyon, given to the King of the locusts of the abyss in Revelation 9:11. The antichrist is described as a son of destruction, implying that this is a reappearance of the locusts of Revelation 9. My hypothesis is that the locusts of Revelation 9 describe the mindset of postmodern deconstructionism, which questions all factual content, as illustrated by the Oxford Dictionary word of the year for 2016, which was ‘post-truth’. When factual content is doubted to such an extent, then mysticism will naturally emerge, because Teacher thought can overgeneralize and Mercy thought can identify when factual content is not present.

The man of lawlessness will ‘take his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God’. A temple is a religious place that is separate from normal, secular existence. Taking a seat in the temple of God implies that the subjective realm of religion will be taken over by mysticism. The word translated display means to ‘show by proof or demonstrate’.

Belligerent Mysticism

Putting this together, Paul is describing mystical worship being imposed upon the subjective. This is not just mysticism as private meditation, but rather belligerent mysticism that insists that it is the one and only valid form of worship.

Why this transformation?

The answer can be found the next verses: “You know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way” (2:6,7). Western civilization is already governed by a split between rational objective thought, as epitomized by science and technology, and irrational subjective experience, as epitomized by mysticism. In the words of Paul, ‘the mystery of lawlessness is already at work’. And this is an accurate description of mysticism, because it is lawless—devoid of factual and moral content, as well as a mystery—incapable of being analyzed by rational thought. However, this societal split between rational and subjective is currently implicit. Everyone assumes that rational thought should only be applied to objective situations. In the words of Paul, it has not yet been revealed. The man of lawlessness emerges when this implicit split between objective and subjective becomes explicit.

I am not sure of all the factors that are restraining this implicit division from becoming explicit. But I do know that a rational theory that bridges objective and subjective, such as the theory of mental symmetry, is very effective at bringing this implicit split to the surface. And precisely this kind of rational theory is described in Revelation 10, because an angel with one foot on the ‘earth’ of rational thought and another foot on the ‘sea’ of subjective experience swears by all of the content of creation that the mystery of God is finished, and then tells John to take and eat a little book—symbolic of understanding and digesting a rational theory. Looking at this cognitively, mysticism is theoretically vulnerable. When a general theory continues to be used, then it will turn into a TMN, which will use emotional pressure to impose its content upon the mind, and will respond with emotional discomfort when experiencing inconsistent content. But mysticism is not a normal general theory, but rather an overgeneralization that is based upon the absence of factual content. Thus, mysticism is not just threatened by inconsistent content but by any content.

Mysticism is not threatened by rational scientific thought because science avoids subjective experience. Mysticism is also not threatened by religion because most religious experts, including most Christian theologians, insist that humans are ultimately incapable of comprehending the character of God. But mysticism is threatened by a rational general theory that includes the subjective, especially if this theory provides a rational explanation for mysticism. That is because mysticism only works if mystical practice is considered to be more universal than rational thought, while mysticism stops working if mystical practice is nothing more than one aspect of cognitive processing. This inherent vulnerability is described by Paul in verse 8: “Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of his mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of his coming.” Cognitively speaking, one slays mysticism by using words to come up with an alternative general theory: ‘the breath of his mouth’. And one brings an end to overgeneralization by acquiring factual content: ‘the appearance of his coming’.

I learned this second principle when doing research with my Teacher brother. The Teacher person is naturally good at coming up with general theories, while I as a Perceiver person am naturally good at learning facts. I discovered that my brother consistently seemed to do his theorizing in areas where my factual knowledge was weakest. Thus, whenever he came up with a new general theory, I would have to learn facts about that topic, and he would eventually respond by coming up with a new general theory—in some other area of thought where my factual knowledge was limited. In other words, the only way to bring a complete end to overgeneralization is to gain factual knowledge about all areas of thought, which is what happens when a concept of incarnation becomes revealed.

False Signs and Wonders

Going further, Paul says that the lawless one is “the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders” (2:9). The word translated activity means ‘energizing, or power in action’, and Satan means adversary. In other words, the appearance of the lawless one is energized by an adversarial mindset. Revelation 12 also relates Satan to adversarial thinking: “The great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night’” (Rev. 12:9,10). This passage connects the three elements of Satan, the serpent, and accusing Christians ‘before our God day and night’. I have suggested in other essays that the serpent symbolizes mysticism, because the language of the snake in the Garden of Eden expresses mystical thought, and because a snake is a visual symbol of the overgeneralization and identification practiced by mysticism. I have mentioned that overgeneralization cannot handle factual content. This means that mysticism must shut down Perceiver thought, because Perceiver thought comes up with facts, and facts ruin mysticism. Perceiver thought can be overwhelmed by using excessive emotional pressure. This is the cognitive mechanism behind absolute truth: Perceiver thought is overwhelmed by the emotional status of some expert into accepting the pronouncements of that expert as truth. For instance, “There is no God because Carl Sagan said so, and Carl Sagan was a famous scientist.” Mysticism can protect Teacher overgeneralization by using emotional pressure to question truth and shut down Perceiver thought. That is why the serpent of old ‘accuses them before our God day and night’. What is being attacked is not specific truths or doctrines but rather the very concept of truth and doctrine. Using the language of Paul, the man of lawlessness is energized by an adversarial mindset—driven by the Teacher emotion of mystical oneness to attack all moral content.

Paul also mentions ‘all power and signs and false wonders’. Power could refer either to natural or miraculous power, but signs mean ‘authenticating miracles’, while a wonder is ‘an extraordinary event with its supernatural effect left on all witnessing it’. The same word ‘signs’ is used twice in Revelation 13 to describe the second beast: “He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform” (Rev. 13:13,14).

Looking at this first cognitively, miracles are excellent for keeping rational thought at bay, because they are emotionally potent events that overwhelm Perceiver thought, as well as acting as counterexamples to the universal laws of nature. For instance, ‘My cousin was miraculously cured of cancer. The doctors took an x-ray and they could not explain what had happened. This proves that God exists.’ The underlying assumption is that God violates universal laws. But how can a universal being violate universal laws? And if God violates the universal laws of nature, then who created nature with its universal laws? Thus, signs and wonders actually promote a mindset of mysticism, because they ‘prove’ that God transcends rational thought. In contrast, the Bible says that God is righteous, which means that God always behaves in a manner that is consistent with universal laws that reflect the character of God. What we call miracles are actually natural expressions of the supernatural and spiritual realms, which are guided by their own set of universal laws that reflect the character of God.

Turning now to the signs and wonders themselves, my hypothesis is that angels, spirits, and humans all have the same minds/souls, but develop these minds in totally different directions because of living in completely different environments. Saying this another way, angels and humans have compatible minds but are driven by totally incompatible core metal networks. Therefore, one effective way of contacting angels or spirits is by suppressing the mental networks that result from living in physical reality. For instance, suppose that I disagree violently with someone over politics. I can be friends with that person if I choose never to talk about politics. Similarly, one can be friends with angels or spirits if one chooses never to think or talk about physical reality. This means that mysticism is an effective method for contacting angels or spirits because it suppresses facts about physical reality. (Search Google for ‘meditation contact aliens’). There are two primary problems with this method. First, one will contact aliens and spirits who do not care about physical existence. Second, contact will be temporary because it is based in a contradiction: Humans who live within the human world are temporarily pretending that the human world does not exist. That is why Paul describes these signs and wonders as ‘a conscious and intentional falsehood’, because both the mindset and the supernatural contact result from suppressing truth.

Paul elaborates upon this in the next verse: “With all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” (2:10). The word translated wickedness is actually unighteousness, while perishing is the same term for destruction mentioned earlier. Using cognitive language, the idea that God is an unrighteous person who violates universal laws is a deception that will end up deconstructing one’s personal existence. Current society makes this abundantly clear, because the end result of postmodern questioning is to destroy the foundations for human society. The underlying problem is that people did not ‘welcome and accept’ the love of the truth. Saying this cognitively, the first step in being saved is to accept the facts about myself.

This suppressing of the truth is backed up by the TMN of mysticism, which provides emotional pressure to suppress moral content in order to protect Teacher overgeneralization. In the language of Paul, “God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false” (2:10). The word translated influence is energeia, from which we get the term energy. Cognitively speaking, Exhorter thought, the part of the mind that provides the energy for thought and action, gets its energy from the strong emotions of mental networks. The TMN of the concept of a God of mysticism will provide energy to continue believing falsehood and untruth. Notice the inherent cognitive contradiction, because Perceiver thought is being used to shut down Perceiver thought. People are believing that there is no such thing as belief. This is a natural result of mysticism, because the strong emotions of mystical experience will overwhelm Perceiver thought into believing that one should not use Perceiver thought. A similar method is used in the Zen koan.

Paul explains that this is “In order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2:12). Taking pleasure in wickedness is more accurately translated ‘thinking well of unrighteousness’. This implies that people are not just breaking the rules, but rather finding intellectual pleasure in the idea of violating universal law. This describes the mindset that believes in a God who transcends rational thought, because it finds mystical pleasure in contemplating the exception to the universal rule. For instance, one of the books I have analyzed is co-written by a theologian and physicist. This book gives a good overview of the laws of physics, and then proceeds to find God in the singularities where the laws of physics do not apply. That, I suggest, is an example of thinking well of unrighteousness.

Paul describes this as a judgment. Looking at this cognitively, it appears that God ultimately judges humans by forcing them to live with the concept of God that they have constructed. In other words, when I use Teacher thought to construct a mental concept of God, I am creating a mental prison for my mind within which my personal identity will become emotionally trapped. This already happens within a person’s lifetime on earth, and I suggest that it will ultimately determine a person’s fate after death. Saying this more bluntly, God does not send people to hell. Instead, it is a universal law of God that people who have constructed the mental concept of a false God will be irresistibly drawn to hell because their core mental networks will repel them from the presence of the true God.

Salvation

Paul then turns his attention from the man of lawlessness to the path of salvation. Paul’s words are familiar, but his focus gives the impression that he is addressing a group of people who have already experienced the theoretical return of Christ: “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2:13). Using cognitive language, the goal is to transform MMNs of personal identity, which is done by living within the TMN of a concept of God, being guided by the Platonic forms of the Spirit, and treating universal truth as a map to guide personal behavior.

Notice that Paul refers to this in the past tense: ‘God has chosen you from the beginning’. And the next verse repeats that this happened in the past: “It was for this He called you through our gospel” (2:14). In other words, the instructions given in 1 Thessalonians are in the past, and the goal is now to apply this understanding in order to achieve concrete results: “...that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2:14). These concrete results are not achieved by God violating universal laws through signs and wonders, but rather by externalizing (‘gaining the glory’) the mindset of submitting to incarnation (‘Lord Jesus Christ’).

And Paul adds that this means holding on to intellectual content that has already been revealed, again consistent with the idea that the theoretical return of Christ is now in the past: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us” (2:14). Notice that Paul is referring to intellectual tradition and not to cultural tradition, because these traditions are being taught through words and letters, and not just being acquired by growing up in some environment.

Paul finishes the chapter by summarizing what God has already given and what is presently required. God and incarnation have already given lasting emotional help: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace” (2:16). The word translated comfort is cognate with the word used to describe the Holy Spirit as ‘the comforter’ in John 14. Cognitively speaking, the mind uses mental networks to represent people, and Paul is saying that a concept of God and incarnation now live within the mind in the form of mental networks. And these mental networks are eternal; they will not fragment or fall apart. One can tell that Paul is talking about mental networks that impose content upon the mind, because the next verse says that this eternal comfort will “comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word” (2:17).

Notice the parallel between those who love the truth and those who take pleasure in unrighteousness. In both cases people are being emotionally driven to think and behave in a manner that is consistent with the TMN of their concept of God. This is an example of God being righteous, because the same cognitive mechanism is being used both to bless the righteous and punish the unrighteous. God does not have one set of rules for his friends and another set of rules for his enemies. Instead, the same universal laws apply to everyone.

Chapter 3

The focus of chapter 3 is upon applying understanding. Verse 1 says “Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you” (3:1). The word translated spread rapidly is more literally ‘running like an athlete moving forward with full effort and directed purpose’. The purpose is to ‘be glorified’, which is done by adding substance to the verbal understanding. And Paul adds that this has already been happening with the Thessalonians, again indicating that Paul is addressing a group that is applying understanding.

Meanwhile, others who do not have an understanding are trying to suppress what is happening: “and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith” (3:2). The word translated perverse means ‘out of place’, while evil ‘emphasizes the inevitable agonies that always go with evil’. The underlying assumption is that a general rational understanding of God now exists, and that some people are not applying this understanding, and are experiencing painful consequences because they are out of place. Saying this more generally, a fundamentalist mindset that believes in absolute truth will view evil as bad—something tempting that is forbidden. In contrast, understanding that is based in universal truth will view evil as dumb and irrational.

While some individuals lack faith, God is faithful: “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil” (3:3). (As the NASB points out, the original says ‘evil’ and not ‘evil one’.) The word translated protect means ‘exercising unbroken vigilance as a military guard’. In other words, this is not a conflict between two equal forces of good and evil. Instead, God is leading the Thessalonians through a process of strengthening and will protect them. Saying this cognitively, the TMN of a concept of God will not fall apart, but rather will gain in strength as it continues to be applied in actions, and it will overcome the childish and chaotic mental networks of society.

Paul emphasizes applying understanding in the next verse: “We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command” (3:4). This verse is interesting because it is meta-cognitive. (Cognitive examines thinking; meta-cognitive examines thinking about thinking.) Paul has mental confidence in God regarding the actions of the Thessalonians. Looking at this more technically, Paul is describing an aspect of righteousness. Righteousness adds Server actions to Teacher understanding. One of the byproducts is to add stability and confidence to Teacher understanding. A similar cognitive effect happens whenever one learns something in class and then applies this understanding through homework or in the lab, because verbal understanding acquires stability when it is applied in action. A concept of God is based in an understanding of how things work. Therefore, Paul does not just have confidence in the Lord, but he also has confidence that others will apply their Teacher understanding in Server actions. He has confidence in the general process of gaining righteousness, and he has confidence that this process will also apply to the Thessalonians.

Paul hopes that the Thessalonians will gain emotional comfort from the TMN of a concept of God as well as mental stability from the content of the concept of incarnation: “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ” (3:5). Notice that both of these characteristics affect personal identity. The MMNs of the heart are living within the TMN of God, while the word translated steadfastness means ‘to remain under or endure’, implying that personal identity is living within the stability of a concept of incarnation.

Living within the Structure of Incarnation

I have suggested that 2 Thessalonians is addressed to a group of people who have already experienced the theoretical return of Christ. The primary challenge for such a group is to add content to verbal understanding. Saying this another way, personal transformation is a three stage process. An adequate concept of God is constructed in the first stage, this Teacher understanding is applied with Server actions in the second stage of righteousness, and personal identity becomes reborn in the third stage of rebirth. The theoretical return of Christ finished the first stage for society as a whole, because an adequate concept of God is now widely known. The next step is for everyone to apply this understanding in action. That is the topic of Paul’s final verses.

Paul sets the tone in verse 6: “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us” (3:6). The word translated command actually means ‘a command that is fully authorized because it has gone through all the proper channels’. Thus, Paul is instructing others to add structure to words—in a manner that places words within structure. And he is backing this up with a Teacher understanding of incarnation as both God and man: ‘in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’. The word translated ‘keep away’ only occurs twice in the New Testament, and it means ‘to arrange, prepare, gather up, hence to restrain’. The word translated unruly means ‘in a disorderly manner’. Putting this together, Paul is instructing people to add structure to the lives of those who lack structure. They already have an understanding, which is why Paul can appeal to ‘the tradition which you received from us’. The challenge is to allow this understanding to structure people’s personal lives. Paul adds that he set an example for others to follow: “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you” (3:7).

Paul then explains that acting in an ordered manner means combining Server actions with Teacher understanding: “Nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example” (3:8,9). Looking at this literally, Paul did not just preach when visiting the Thessalonians but also worked. Looking at this symbolically, one must pay for the intellectual food of ‘bread’ through Server actions performed in emotional hardship. The cognitive principle is that Server actions only become mentally glued to Teacher words if these words are applied in an environment of not being assisted by MMNs of culture or identity. Or in the words of Paul, not ‘being a burden to men’. This is a variation on the general theme that righteousness comes from obeying God rather than men.

And Paul himself is not just using Teacher words to tell others what to do. Instead, he is both using Teacher words to tell them what to do and applying these Teacher words in Server actions that provide an example to follow.

Paul then repeats this principle: “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either” (3:10). As before, the word translated order is a ‘command that goes through proper channels’. Using cognitive language, do not consume intellectual food in Teacher thought without including Server actions.

Paul then mentions that some people are not following this principle: “For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies” (3:11). The word translated busybodies is only used once in the New Testament, and it means ‘to work all around, to meddle by going beyond proper boundaries’. Looking at this cognitively, Teacher thought by itself is unstable and will be attracted emotionally to the latest and greatest general theory from the social environment, causing a person to continually put their noses into other people’s business. When Server actions are added to Teacher theories, then a person will naturally come up with theories that relate to what they themselves are doing. In the words of Paul, “Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread” (3:12). ‘Working quietly’ implies performing Server actions without saying words in Teacher thought, while ‘eat their own bread’ implies that theorizing in Teacher thought is being guided by one’s own personal Server actions.

Why would Paul play such a strong emphasis upon combining Teacher words with Server actions? Based upon personal experience, I think that I know the answer. When I started to help my brother with his research on spiritual gifts in the 1980s, it was exhilarating to do such groundbreaking research, and it was emotionally draining to descend from the clouds of abstract theory down to the mortal realm of human action. Action felt so mundane and pedestrian compared to contemplating the nature of the mind. That is because Teacher emotion is based upon generality. Talking about a theory feels good because one is focusing upon generality, while doing does not feel good because doing limits the mind to specific experiences of personal life, and specific details do not generate positive Teacher emotions.

I should add that this is not a permanent problem, because combining Server actions with Teacher words will eventually cause new Teacher emotions to emerge, such as emotions of elegance and compactness. Elegance describes Server action that expresses a general Teacher understanding. Compactness increases Teacher feelings of order-within-complexity by placing more structure within a small package. For instance, a modern smartphone generates strong Teacher feelings because an entire virtual world is contained within a small object. However, these new Teacher emotions will not emerge right away. Instead, it will feel for a while that moving from words to actions means abandoning positive Teacher feelings.

I suggest that this describes how people will feel after the theoretical unveiling of Christ. Doing will feel meaningless and worthless compared to talking and thinking about the understanding that has been unveiled. But if one wishes to go further, then one must become righteous by adding Server actions to Teacher words. That happened to me when people stopped listening to the theory of mental symmetry, forcing me to shut up and apply my words. For years, I had to live a normal life while somehow coexisting with an amazing theory in my head—that I could not talk to others about.

One can see why Paul says, “As for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good” (3:13). It is easy to grow weary of doing good when thinking and talking about a verbal theory is so much more enjoyable than doing.

This is such an important principle that Paul tells the Thessalonians to enforce it using peer pressure: “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame” (3:14). The word translated associate means to ‘mingle together with, keep company with’. In essence, such a person should be treated the way that others treated me. I could not talk about cognitive styles with others because they would not mingle with me.

Paul emphasizes that one should not regard such a person as bad within Mercy thought, but rather ‘appeal to his mind, supplying doctrinal and spiritual substance’: “Do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (3:15).

Paul’s final wish is to ask that the God of wholeness will lead them to all aspects of wholeness: “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance” (3:16). The word translated peace means ‘when all essential parts are joined together into a whole’. Similarly, the theory of mental symmetry has matured over the years from being merely a description of how the mind works to an understanding of mental wholeness and how this can be achieved.