Prolific Christian writer Frank Viola wants to tell the world the greatest love story that ever existed. It began before time and involves a God who is madly, deeply in love and will not give up until He receives the love of His bride.
The Christian Post recently interviewed Viola who shared about his life-changing revelation about God and His plan and mission for the church as revealed in his latest book From Eternity to Here.
CP: What is your purpose in writing this book?
Viola: I wrote From Eternity to Here because the message of the book changed my life . . . profoundly. It gave me vision, purpose, and passion. It caused me to fall in love with my Lord and give my life fully to Him, without guilt, condemnation, or a sense of religious duty. But out of love and awe. It also gave me a hunger and thirst for Jesus Christ that has never left me. In addition, it provided me with an incredible framework for understanding God's grand mission and the entire Biblical story.
Understanding God's eternal purpose made Scripture come to life for me. It gave me a new view of the Word of God, a new view of the Lord, a new view of the church, and a new view of myself. Learning to see the latter through the eyes of God-which changes everything. So I wanted others to benefit from the message of God's eternal purpose as well. This short audio clip will give your readers the flavor of what I'm talking about.
CP: What are God's three grand missions? Briefly, how are they related?
God actually only has one grand mission, or "eternal purpose," to use Paul's phrase. However, it can be broken up into the following: God the Father wants a Bride for God the Son; God the Son wants a House for God the Father. God the Father wants a Body for God the Son. And God the Son wants a Family for God the Father. And the Spirit desires this for each and makes it happen.
The Bride, the Body, the House, and the Family are very familiar to most Christians, but how they are put together in the Bible and what they mean is new to most. Thus the overwhelming response we've gotten on the book is "I've never seen it like this before." One person called it "the hidden obvious."
What I do in the book is develop these themes from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. In Genesis 1 and 2, we have two chapters that are without sin. The fall hasn't occurred yet. What do we have in these chapters? We have the tree of life, a flowing river, gold, pearl and precious stone. We have a man and a woman, a bridegroom and bride. We have the commission to be fruitful and multiply. At the end of the Bible, in Revelation 21 and 22, we have two chapters that are also without sin. The fall has been erased. What do we find in these chapters? A tree of life, a flowing river, a building that's made of gold, pearl and precious stone-which is God's house. The sons and daughters of God and a Bride.
The entire Bible is simply the development of the themes in Genesis 1 and 2 to their final culmination in Revelation 21 and 22. From Eternity to Here is an unveiling of this development.
CP: You described Jesus Christ as a "lone bachelor" who came to earth not only to save sinners but to obtain a bride. Can you explain why you depict Jesus as a romantic character rather than as the savior that he is normally understood to be? Also, who is this bride?
Viola: Because the Bible depicts Him this way again and again. He is not just Savior, but Lord, King, Son of God, God incarnate, Elder Brother, Emmanuel (God with us), the Head of the Church, the Firstborn of all creation, the Alpha and Omega, and the Bridegroom.
According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5, Adam was a shadow of Jesus Christ. And in Ephesians 5, Paul says that the church is the New Eve. Therefore, the Bible begins with a love story of the first man and his flawless bride. It also ends with a love story of the Bride of the Lamb, which becomes His wife. And the rest of the Biblical story is an unveiling of that love story. Readers can hear the first chapter of the book here www.frometernitytohere.org/firstchapter.mp to get a sample of this love affair that Jesus wants to have with His beloved church.
CP: Why do you say the Lord Jesus Christ is the most frustrated lover of all time?
Viola: Imagine a young man who wants to pour out his love on the girl of his dreams. But she doesn't accept his love. In fact, she doubts it, therefore, she can't reciprocate it. What's the result? The young man is frustrated and the girl can't experience the full impact of his love because she doubts it. Or she feels too unworthy to receive it.
That's an apt analogy for many Christians today in their relationship with the Lord. Jesus expressed His frustration with Jerusalem when He said, "I have longed to … but you were not willing" (Luke 13:34).
In this connection, many people who read the book, both men and women, admit that they never really knew the depths of God's love before. And once taking God's view of themselves (instead of their own), the floodgates of Christ's love poured into them and they fell in love with Him as a result. This is actually a common response from folks who read the book: "I've fallen in love with the Lord again."
CP: You write a lot about the individual versus the corporate in terms of loving God and God loving the body of Christ. What point are you trying to make?
Viola: God's eternal purpose is corporate. He's looking for a corporate expression of His Son. The point is we can't love God, follow God, or fulfill His dream by ourselves. We need other believers to do that. God isn't just looking for many "living stones," to use Peter's phrase. He's looking for those living stones to be "built together" to form God's dwelling place in reality. That's what the New Testament vision of church is (see Eph. 2:22 and 1 Peter 2:5).
CP: What are the four habitats of Christians, and briefly, what do they symbolize?
Viola: The book goes into detail on this, but they in short are: Egypt (the world system), Babylon (organized religion), the wilderness (the transition between those cities and God's dwelling place), and Jerusalem (the experience of Christ and His church).
CP: I found what you wrote about God longing for expression through his children interesting. What do you mean that God doesn't possess the body as demons do?
Viola: Demons, if they have a way into a human being, take control of the physical body and take over a person's will. God, on the other hand, will dispense His life into a person (that's what happens at conversion). But He will never force a person to follow His leading. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman; He gently leads and can be grieved. In Ephesians, Paul tells the believers in Asia Minor that God wants to make His home in the believers (see his prayer in Ephesians 3). That requires our willingness to yield to His sovereign rights. God will never force that on us.
CP: Instead of asking, 'Does God love me,' what do you think people should ask instead? Why?
Viola: If I had to choose , I'd say that Christians should be asking: "What is God's dream?" "Why did He create the universe, and why did He create me?" and finally, "For what purpose was I saved?" God's eternal purpose answers all of these questions, and the book is an unveiling of His timeless purpose.
CP: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Viola: Yes, first, thank you for this opportunity to share. Second, I'd encourage your readers to take a look at our new page www.ptmin.org/mediography which has all sorts of resources on the book that are free of charge, such as interviews, sample chapters, reviews, audios, spoken messages, etc. Those will explain so much more about what the book is about. I'll also add this: So far, I have written eight books, and From Eternity to Here is the most important book I've ever written and (I believe) ever will write.
Frank Viola is a frequent conference speaker and author of numerous books on the deeper Christian life and church reform. Some of his books include From Eternity to Here, Reimagining Church, and The Untold Story of the New Testament Church. Frank's Web site, http://www.FrankViola.com, contains many free resources. Frank and his family live in Gainesville, Florida.