Thursday, December 31, 2009

Social Connection

The difference between my situation and the situation experienced by my parents as an indicator of the change that has taken place in our society. In one generation, we have gone from a society that could effortlessly care for people like Alex and Jack (community care, not family care) to a society where people like Alex and Jack tend to be shut out of our communities.

We have gone from a situation where caring for Alex and Jack was normal to one where the possibility is not even on the radar. The change has been immense, yet it has hardly been noticed.

The technical name for this is social connectedness. Social scientists attempt to measure it. It is a more useful indicator of what is going on in our society than benefit numbers, because it gets to the cause of the problem and points to a solution. The problem in most western nations over the last generation is that there has been a huge collapse in social connectedness.

The state has facilitated this loss of social connectedness, but it is not the cause. The primary cause is people’s choices about the way that they will live. This is important to understand, because it means the process can be reversed by people making different choices.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Whacking the Barometer

Statistics show that the number of people on welfare benefits is increasing. Some people see this as a problem and want to roll back entitlements. Unfortunately, the statistics only tell part of the story. They do not describe the changes that have taken place in the way that our society functions.

When I was growing up, a man called Alex lived in our neighbourhood. He had lung problems and could not do physical work. He was also a bit simple. Although he was in his late forties, he still lived with his parents. People in the neighbourhood would give him odd jobs to do. He would not have earned much, but it gave him pocket money. Someone had given an old car that they did not need, so he was able to get around a bit. He took responsibility for keeping and area of garden in the neighbourhood tidy.

Alex had quite a good life. By living simply, he had enough to get by. He would have felt that he made a contribution to the community that he lived in. These days, Alex would be on an invalids benefit. I don't know where he would live. He would be ostracised by society, because he related best to teenage boys, so would be considered to be a pervert. (He was not a pervert. It was just that he talked a lot of rubbish, and any person over the age of sixteen soon got tired of listening to him).

I also think of Jack Kleim. He was a very capable man, who could turn his hand to anything. However, most of his business ventures had collapsed, so he had lost his confidence. He had also been affected by hostile treatment as a boy, for having a German name and he drunk too much. Most people would say he was a "no hoper".

A few men who had known his father made sure that he had work, often taking turns to employ him. One man gave Jack a small cottage to live in, in return in for some work. He had a portable record player and would visit people and play music in return for an evening meal. This made him feel accepted in the community.

Unfortunately, in the late seventies, most of the people who watched out for him had moved away or died, so he got forgotten. He eventually committed suicide. These days, Jack Kleim would be on the unemployment benefit. I doubt that he would have any better life.

Behind the welfare statistics, there is a story about the way our society has changed. We no longer have communities that can care for people who do not cope or do not fit, so the state has had to step into the breach. That is not ideal, but it is better than what happened to Jack Kleim once the community that protected him collapsed.

Rolling back benefit entitlements is not the solution. If we do not like the way our society works now, we have to work towards creating something better. If we do not have a vision and commitment to changing society from the bottom up, we are irrelevant, and should just stop complaining and pay our taxes.

Welfare statistics are a useful barometers of the changes that are occurring in our society. Unfortunately, some people think that whacking the barometer changes the weather.

The more important barometer for me is the fact that in my parents world, there were lots of Alexs and Jacks, whereas in my world, they are all segmented away, where they can be ignored.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

America

Earlier this month, I spent a week in America. Most of the time I was in Washington DC, looking for the Beast.

Here are some of the things that struck me about America.

  • Americans talk very loud.

  • Many American men are seriously overweight.

  • American people are really friendly and helpful

  • America is an incredibly militaristic nation.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Boxing Day and Self Interest

On Boxing Day, many people go back to the shops to exchange their Christmas presents for something they like better or need more. The problem is that no matter how hard we try to buy an appropriate gift for someone we love, we often get it wrong. We buy something that they already have or something that they do not need. And even if we do not exchange our gifts, we are often disappointed in them, because we would have chosen a different brand or a different colour. The perfect gift is quite rare.

This illustrates an important principle of economics: the concept of “self interest”. This idea does not get a very good press among Christians, because we think it smacks of selfishness. However, the concept of “self interest” means an economy functions better when people are able to decide what they want for themselves.

An economy based on people deciding what is good for other people does not function so well, because none of us really know what other people want. The strength of the market system is that it allows people to buy what they want, because they are in the best place to decide what they need.

The Christmas present problem illustrates this neatly. Even if we know the person well and really care about them, we can still buy them the wrong gift. Imagine how many mistakes we would make for if we were buying for people we do know and do not care about. We would buy the wrong thing many times. This does not mean they are a selfish. Rather, they just have different tastes, or they have a greater need for something else. Self interest assumes that consumers know best what they need. People can decide what they want for themselves, better than other people can decide for them.

Producers face a different problem. If consumers are free to buy what they want, producers will only be successful if they are producing things that consumers want. To be successful, producers have to do better than most of us do at buying gifts, because the free market system rewards those who are the most skilled at guessing what other people want. A producer will earn a profit if they supply what people want, at a price they will pay. Producers who guess wrong will end up with full warehouses and no profits. To be successful, a producer has to do much better at deciding what other people want, than most buyers of Christmas presents.

Self interest means that consumers can choose what they want , but producers must supply what other people want. The free market places power in the hands of consumers and makes producers into servants.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Preparation is Urgent

We have allowed evil into our economy and society, and when it turns against us, we will be powerless against it.

  • Evil is lurking and will strike when the time is right and opportunity comes.

  • The economy will nearly go “belly up”. Order might be restored, at the last minute. Many will be seriously hurt, whether they bail out or jump.

  • The crisis will bring a serious fuel shortage. Some fuel will be available, but supplies will be stop-start.

  • The crisis will cause food shortages. Some people will have plenty, others will have none. Some hard working people will face long delays without food. They will become angry and may get violent.

  • Most Christians are totally unprepared for the next crisis. Many are travelling on in isolation, totally unaware that a huge disaster is going to cut into their path. Most will survive, but they will be distressed and shaken.

  • Christian pride and complacency will be exposed.

  • Christians must learn to live more simply. The smaller option will often be the best.

  • Some Christians will be betrayed. People that they have risked their lives to help will turn against them and take advantage of their generosity.

  • There will be no quick fixes for this crisis. We will be stuck in the mess for quite a while. The disaster might last longer than the good times that went before.

  • When we get through the crisis, we will have progressed much further towards the kingdom than most people expected.

Preparation is urgent. There is no time for mucking around, trying to get things perfect. Getting prepared is more important than getting things exactly right.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christians should be Alert

Christians should be preparing for this next crisis, but most have been lulled into a false sense of security by the mild impact effects of the current crisis. People are heaving a sigh of relief, as the economic signs and statistics indicate the crisis has ended and recovery is underway. Most Christians are thinking:

If this is the worst depression
since the 1930s,
its not too bad
I can cope.
Things are tight,
but I am alright.
This widespread sense of relief is based on a misunderstanding of what has happened. Most Christians came through the financial crisis unscathed, but not because they were prepared to cope. God turned back the crisis, because were not prepared.

A greater danger now lurks, but casual chatter has created a dangerous complacency amongst Christians. In face of danger, we plunge on, because things look rosy on the surface.

Most Christians could not cope with a real economic crisis. The independence and individualism that characterise modern western Christianity will not “cut it”. Christians should be establishing connections with other Christians who will support them when times get tough. Some should be moving closer together to create zones of security in a chaotic world.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Devil of a Depression

The financial crisis was not that bad in New Zealand.

  • The banking system is strong
  • GDP declined by less than 3 percent.
  • Most people still have their jobs.
  • Property prices fell be 10 percent, but have recovered quickly.
  • People are still walking their dogs (not eating them).
God was going to work the crisis for good by using it to shake the nation, but his people were not ready, so he turned back the evil. The crisis was not as severe as expected, because God held back the economic tide to protect careless people from unnecessary suffering. The entire world benefited from this mercy,

but…

It will not happen again
In recent years, a power shift has taken place in New Zealand. We have unwittingly handed control over many aspects of our culture, our society and our economy to the forces of evil. Our nation has progressed so far down the wrong road that the forces of evil now have a much freer hand. God’s ability to turn back evil is now severely limited. By choosing to cast off restraint, we have left evil unrestrained.

So far the consequences have not been that serious, but the evil one is now flexing his muscles ready to show what he can do. He has been watching the world financial crisis and thinking, “I can do better than that”. His is planning a strike against our export industries that will devastate the New Zealand economy and plunge us into a serious disaster. This crisis will not be constrained by the hand of God, but will be the devil’s depression.

The current financial crisis will be followed by a worse depression worked by the devil’s fury for the purposes of evil. A crisis made over by God could have brought revival and blessing, if we had been prepared, but the devil’s depression will bring collapse and destruction that is deeper and darker than anything that this generation has seen.

Satan is not as powerful as we like to think. He is having difficulty getting together the capability to cause a disaster, but he will eventually succeed.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Whose Shoulder?

Isaiah prophesied boldly about Jesus.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.

Of the increase of his
government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign … over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.

The government will be on his shoulder.

Who?

The Child
Jesus.

The simple reading of this text is that Jesus will be the government
from that time forward and forever.

So why does Barack Obama think that he should be the government?
or Gordon Brown, or Angela Merkel, or Nicolas Sarkozy, or Kevin Rudd, or John Key?

Herod understood Isaiah's prophecy.
He knew that his government was a goner,
so he tried to kill Jesus,
but he was still a goner.

Mary understood it too. That is why she said,
Kings would be thrown down from their thrones
and the humble raised up.

Satan understood the threat.
That is why he came up with clever deception that
this prophecy is "Not for now, but for later",
"Jesus government comes at the end of the age."
You could trust Satan to thrust his shoulder in.

The government is on Jesus shoulder.
He will govern with justice and righteousness.
and his government will never shop increasing.
The Zeal of the Lord will do it.

When?

Not in the future.
No!
From that time on and forever.

We had better work out what this means.
Soon!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Obstacles to the Kingdom (16) - Birth Pangs

We do not know exactly when these ephocal events will take place, but there are are the signs that will indicate that this season is getting close. These signs kickstart a Time of Desolation that crushs human power, and eventually wipes out all nation state. A brief description of each birth pang follows.

  1. Islam Advancing - The first birth pang in this age of transition is the resurgence of Islam. This is described in the First Seal in Revelation 6:2. Islamic nations will experience a revival of religious fervour and political power. Daniel 7:4 describes the United States tangle with these nations.

  2. Ethnic Wars - The revival of Islam leads to an increase in wars between different ethnic groups through many parts of the world. The second seal in Revelation 6:3-4 describes a time when ethnic disputes become so common that the resources of the United Nations will not be able to cope.

  3. Big Bear - Daniel saw a big bear crushing and devouring (Dan 7:5). This bear could be Russia expanding its power in Eastern Europe. The word also has an economic meaning. A "bear market" is a collapsing market. Daniel’s may represent economic collapse.

  4. Terrorism - An increase in terrorism will be a sign that the Times of Distress has come. Fear and terror are likely to grow as terrorism spreads. Terrorism of any kind is very difficult to control. It will often be used as a justification for governments taking greater power for themselves.

  5. Famine - John saw a famine on the earth caused by a serious economic collapse (Rev 6:5,6).

  6. Disease and Death - Widespread disease and death are the usual consequence of poverty. This is described in the four seal in Revelation 6:7-8.

  7. Political Power - Fear and uncertainty leads to a climax of human poltical power. The world will hand over their freedom to human governments in the hope of finding peace from a troubled world.

  8. Persecution - Many Christians will be unwilling to submit to human authorities. They will be persecuted for their faith (Rev 6:9-11).

These little events have nothing to do with the second coming. They are signs that the four big ones described in the previous post are getting close.

False Christmas

During December, consumers in most Western nations will spend double what they spend in a normal month. They will spend about a twelfth of all that they earn in a year celebrating Christmas. To paraphrase,

Never before in human history
have so many people
spent so much money they do not have
on gifts they do not like
for people who do not need them.
What a waste! We spend a twelfth of all we earn
celebrating a materialism,
that cannot give peace and joy,
but always disappoints.

We put tremendous effort into putting Christ back into Christmas,
but no one asks him whether he wants to be there or not.
Maybe he would sooner be among the hurt and the poor.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Obstacles to the Kingdom (15) - Four Big Events

To understand what will happen next in human history, we must understand four epochal events. The two big world-changing events that I have described will happen soon. The two biggest obstacles to the Kingdom of God will be removed:

These events happen during a:This opens up the way for the Holy Spirit to work on earth to establish:Dramatic change is getting close, so understanding these four events provides the context for understanding what will happen next.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Obstacles to the Kingdom (14) - Revelation

In the Book of Revelation, John describes a time when the governments of man will be replaced by the true government of God (not Jesus returning). The first five seals describe the birth pangs of this new age. The opening of the sixth seal describes the collapse of human government and democratic power.

I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place (Rev 6:13-14).
These events are not literal. The Old Testament prophets often described the collapse of a great nation in the same language. One example is found in Ezekiel 32:7,
When I snuff you out, I will cover the heavens and darken their stars; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon will not give its light.
Ezekiel is speaking about the defeat of Egypt by the armies of Babylon. His words are a graphic description of the collapse of Egypt at the hand of a greater power. The sun continued to shine, but the prophecy fulfilled when Egypt collapsed.

Other prophets used similar language to describe the collapse of a nation or empire. They described the collapse of a human government as the sun and moon falling from the sky. Examples are Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4-5.

References to the sun, moon and starts turning to blood or falling from the sky describe the collapse of human government and political power.
Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev 6:15-16).
The fact that many stars are falling confirms that all kings an rulers will lose their power. Instead of strutting on the world stage, politicians and kings will hide under the rocks and caves. Those who have trusted in politicl power will be filled with fear.

As the empire of man is nearing its last gasp, the governments of the world will collapse and evaporate. When human governments stop functioning, the people be ready for godly justice administered by wise judges applying God’s law. Then Jesus will truly be King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The kingdom of the world
has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ,
and he will reign for ever and ever (Rev 11:15).
The kingdoms of the world will disappear and be replaced by the Kingdom of God.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Obstacles to the Kingdom (13) - Kingdom Fulfilled

Once human political power is obliterated and demonic power is smashed, the last obstacle to the Kingdom of God will have been removed.

His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom,
and all rulers will worship and obey him (Dan 7:27b).
The collapse of Human Political Power will open up the way for the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Obstacles to the Kingdom (12) - P&Ps Destroyed

At this time, the evil spiritual powers will be defeated and the Kingdom of God established. The principalities and powers in the heavenly realm will be disarmed by removing the centralised political and power structures that are the foundation of their power.

Wherever emperors, kings and presidents have been give authority, evil spiritual forces have attached themselves to that authority. When political power evaporates, principalities and powers will be reduced to common evil spirits defeated by the cross. They gained their spiritual power by taking advantage of political power, so the collapse of political power and authority will leave them with no place to stand.

When political and religious control collapses, demonic power will be greatly diminished. As they disperse to deal with authority that is diffused throughout society, they will become fragmented and powerless. When confined to one-on-one battle, they will be easily defeated. As Big Government collapses, a spiritual victory will occur and the Kingdom of God will come to fruition.

The Church is commissioned to preach the gospel and teach people everywhere to exercise authority in obedience to Jesus. The gospel destroys allegiance to human authorities, who demand authority for themselves and gives it back to people who trust Jesus. This robs the spiritual powers of influence.

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms (Eph 3:10).
The church will defeat these spiritual powers by taking authority off political authorities and giving it back to ordinary people.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Obstacles to the Kingdom (11) - Authority Distributed

Jesus received dominion and authority over the entire creation. In the climax of the vision, an angel explained to Daniel what this means for life on earth.

Then the sovereignty,
power and greatness of the kingdoms
under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints,
the people of the Most High (Dan 7:27a).
This is a stunning promise. When Jesus ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father, power and sovereignty were handed back to the people of god. Most Christians do not understand this promise, because they think it applies to the second coming.

When rulers and kingdoms collapse, political power will be chopped up, pushed down and spread around the ordinary people who trust God and serve him. The kingdom will come when power and authority is handed back to the people of God as they join together voluntarily in Tens and Hundreds. God will replace human rulers with local judges applying his law.

The angels promise to Daniel reads like the Great Commission.
All sovereignty in heaven on earth has been given to me. When the Holy Spirit has renewed the hearts of all the nations, teach them to obey what I have commanded you.
This sounds similar, because it is. The gospel will transform human hearts, so that all people can exercise the authority that God has given to them.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Obstacles to the Kingdom (10) - Collapse of Political Power

Daniel’s entire vision is a description of the collapse of human political power. For all of human history, the people of the world have been controlled by kings, emperors and sundry political powers. Over the last few centuries, various democratic demagogues have taken over this controlling role.

Before the Kingdom of God can come to fullness on earth, and before the principalities and accept their defeat on the cross, human political power must be swept away. Daniel describes how this will happen. God allows four beasts or empires to emerge in order to accomplish his purpose. The fourth of these beasts is the “last hurrah” for human political power. Enormous political clout will be given into a united states in order to resist God’s shaking of the world. This terrible human empire will collapse into such a mess that the people of the world will never trust human political power again. Confidence in politics and democracy will crumble and collapse forever.

But the court will sit for judgment,
and his dominion will be taken away,
annihilated and destroyed forever (Dan 7:26).
God will annihilate all human political power from the world forever. More importantly he will drive the desire for political power from human hearts.

All human power and control will be swept away and destroyed forever. Once we get this, we can understand Daniel’s vision. Excessive human political power always lead to disaster. The great rush of hubris in this age will climax in an attempt to create the ideal human government and spread its influence throughout the world. Unfortunately, , this last grand endeavour will collapse into chaos. This turmoil will leave people throughout the world disillusioned with what man can do. Hopes for political salvation will be be annihilated.

Christians do not need to fight human political power. God will sweep away human political power by coming against it in judgment. Economic collapse and fourth generation warfare will undermine the power of the human political system and cause its disintegrate. They will collapse from within.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Obstacles to the Kingdom (9) - Daniels Vision

Daniel saw Jesus’ ascension into heaven.

One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom (Dan 7:13,14).
Jesus is the Son of Man, but this is not a description of the second coming. Daniel saw Jesus arriving in heaven, so this must be his ascension and enthronement, not his second coming. After ascending into heaven, Jesus came into the presence of the Father where he was given the power and authority that he had earned through this death and resurrection.

Jesus victory will be worked out in four steps.
  1. Human political powers will be swept away.
  2. Authority will be returned to families and local communities.
  3. The spiritual forces of evil will be disarmed.
  4. The Kingdom of God will reach a new level of fullness.
This seems impossible, but an angel explains these four steps.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Obstacles to the Kingdom (8) - P and P

Jesus’ death on the cross was a victory over all powers and authorities.

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Col 2:15).
Paul was referring to defeat of the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms, but that spiritual victory must also lead to the defeat of earthly power and authority, as the kingdom of God advances. Paul confirms the victory that God achieved for Jesus in his letter to the Ephesians.
He raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come (Eph 1:20).
This is a completed action. Jesus has already ascended into heaven far above all human power and authority—in this present age. Therefore, we should expect to see the political powers coming under his power now. Daniel explains how this will happen.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Obstacles to the Kingdom (7) - Human Political Power

The second biggest obstacle to the kingdom of God is human political power. This comes in many forms, but it always opposes and undermines the Kingdom of God. Political power has been given greater impetus in recent years by the spread of democracy. Before the Holy Spirit can bring the Kingdom of God to fullness, human political power must be swept away.

One danger with human political power is the false hope that blindspeople to the glory of the Kingodm of God. The more serious problem with political power is its impact on spiritual warfare. The concentration of human political power, generates a dramatic shift in spiritual power towards the “principalities and powers” that we struggle against. They could not exist, if there were no equivalent human rulers and powers. Their power will not be broken until human rulers and empires collapse and disappear.

Spiritual power and political power go together. The leaders of nation have authority to enforce their will on any citizen of their domain. Everyone living in a nation must accept their authority their king or president. The mayor, the council and the council officers have authority to act on behalf of anyone resident in their town or city. This power and authority creates a serious spiritual problem, because these political leaders are vulnerable to spiritual attack, and any attack affects everyone under their authority.

Spiritual evil follows political authority. When a political leader is influenced by demonic powers, the people under his authority are vulnerable to a similar attack. When we submit to political leaders, we open ourselves up to spiritual forces at work in their lives. When demonic forces attach themselves to a king or president, they become “principalities and powers”, because they now have authority over many of the people in that nation (Eph 6:12).

Political leaders come under spiritual pressure, because they hold authority over the people in their nation. When a powerful leader falls into sin, everyone in their realm is vulnerable to the same spirit. If the enemy gets control over a leader, he gains spiritual access to everyone in their political realm. The enemy concentrates his forces against those with political power, so he can win an easy victory over their city or nation.

Centralised political or religious authority is dangerous, because it makes principalities and powers possible. Once the enemy gains control over those with power and authority, he has easier access to all those under that authority. As a political leader accumulates more authority, the principality or power that controls him gains greater power over more people. This is how principalities and powers gain influence (Dan 10:13). If an evil spirit gains control over one person, he can make that person’s life miserable. If the same spirit were to gain control over a king or president, he can control a nation.

Many Christians have an overinflated view of the enemy’s power. They believe that our struggle is against spiritual forces that are almost as powerful as the Holy Spirit. The truth is that Satan’s power is an illusion. Evil forces have leveraged their power by gaining control over political and religious leaders with authority over many people. Political power has magnified the authority of spiritual evil. The judgement of the Jews is one source of our enemy’s power. Human political power is the other source of his power.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Obstacles to the Kingdom (6) - When

Many Christians believe that the Jews will be converted when Jesus returns to Jerusalem. This is not true. Seeing is not believing. The Jews saw Jesus for three years while he exercised his ministry on earth, but they did not believe in him, because their hearts were hard (Rom 11:8). Nothing has changed, so they would not believe, even if they saw Jesus again. Israel’s problem is still hardness of heart (Rom 11:7). They are spiritually blind to the truth. The only cure for spiritual blindness is the Holy Spirit changing hearts.

The Jewish people will not come to salvation by Jesus returning to Jerusalem. Their hearts will be changed when the Holy Spirit moves upon them. The spiritual eyes of all Israel will be opened and they will see that Jesus really is our saviour and Lord. This is confirmed by the prophet Ezekiel.

I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD (Ezek 39:29).
A great outpouring of the Holy Spirit will bring about the Fullness of Israel (not the Second Coming of Jesus). The Jews will be converted by an outpouring of the Spirit and the preaching of a prophetic church.

When the season of Jewish desolation comes to an end, Satan’s last legal authority on earth will be gone. His power to do evil will be massively curtailed. Christians will be empowered to bind his authority. He will become as weak and feeble as he really is.

The end of the Times of the Gentiles will bring a rapid decline in evil and open the way for an equally rapid advance of the Kingdom of God.
But if their transgression means riches for the world,
and their loss means riches for the Gentiles,
how much greater riches will their fullness bring (Rom 11:12).

The fullness of Israel brings great blessing to the earth, because Satan has lost his last authority to work on earth, God will then be free to pour out his Spirit and bring the Kingdom to its promised fulfilment. The times of the Kingdom begin when the Times of the Gentiles come to an end and the fullness of Israel comes in.

The end of the Times of the Gentiles is one of several several major epochal events that must happen on earth. Every Christian should be working and praying for the Fullness of Israel to come to faith in Jesus. I believe that this event is coming soon.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Obstacles to the Kingdom (5) - Calling of Jews

The calling of the Jews will be a major turning point in history. Christians should be working and praying for the Jews to be restored to a place of blessing. This will happen when they acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah they have been seeking. When they come to faith in Christ, blessing will return to the entire world (Rom 11:12). (The state of Israel does not fulfil this promise.)

The Jewish problem is "seeing". Their eyes have been blinded, so they cannot see the truth (Rom 11:8,10) and their hearts have been hardened (Rom 11:25). To come to salvation their spiritual eyes will have to be opened and their hearts cracked. This is the only way they can come to salvation (this is the only way anyone can come to salvation).

Zechariah promised that God would pour out his Spirit on Israel.

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son (Zech 12:10).
This is the moment of Israel’s conversion. At the end of Times of the Gentiles, the Spirit of the Lord will be poured out on the hearts of all Israel. They will receive a Spirit of Supplication that causes them to cry out to Jesus for salvation. The Spirit of grace will give them faith to receive the salvation that comes through grace.

The Holy Spirit will open the eyes of the hearts of all Israel, so they can see Jesus. They will stop looking for a warlike Messiah and realise that Jesus who died on the cross and "who was pieced" by a spear is their Messiah. This realisation will produce a great flood of repentance. When Israel realises that Jesus reigns at the right hand of God and that they have been saved by the prayers in his name, the whole land will be filled with tears. As they come to realise what Jesus has done, they will all weep with sadness and joy (Zech 12:11-14).

Monday, December 07, 2009

Obstacles to the Kingdom (4) - Power to Enemy

Understanding why the Times of the Gentiles are an obstacle to the coming of the Kingdom is important. When Jesus died upon the cross, the devil was totally and fully defeated. He was cast out of heaven (Rev 12:13) and became a trespasser on earth. To gain authority on earth, he has to deceive people into rejecting the gospel and submitting to him.

Despite his defeat on the cross, Satan does have one remaining legal right on earth. Because Jews are under judgment (Matt 23:39), Satan has had the legal right to execute this judgment by working evil to harm them. By deliberately scattered the Jews among the nations, he has expanded this power to work all over the world.

Whenever, Satan wants to work evil in a nation, he incites an attack on the Jews, because this gives him greater authority to do his work. For example, Satan incited both Hitler and Stalin to attack the Jews, which enabled him to do great evil through them.

The judgment of Israel has given Satan a legal right to continue working in the world, despite his defeat. While he has this freedom to act in the world, the advance of the Kingdom of God can be obstructed.

While the Jews are shut out of the kingdom, the devil has authority to continue his activity on earth, because Christians do not have authority to totally bind his power. Therefore, the Kingdom of God cannot come to fulfilment until the times of the Gentiles are complete. Over the last two millennia, the battle for the Kingdom has been very hard. The continued extension of the Times of the Gentiles has allowed the devil extra time to do his work in resisting the Kingdom.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Obstacles to the Kingdom (3) - Reason for Season

Jesus explained how the Times of the Gentiles would come to an end.

For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matt 23:39).
The Times of the Gentiles end when the majority of the Jewish accept the gospel and acknowledge Jesus as their Messiah. They will be restored to blessing, when they bless those who bring the good news of Jesus.

Paul explains the reason for the Times of the Gentiles in the book of Romans. In Romans 10:21 he describes Israel as a disobedient nation. Their hearts have been hardened (Rom 11:25), made enemies of the gospel (Rom 11:28) committed to disobedience (Rom 11:31) and broken out of the vine (Rom 11:17). Paul also promised that their stumble was not beyond recovery (Rom 11:11). He promised that a time will come when Israel is reconciled to the Lord and grafted back into his olive tree. God has promised that all Israel will be saved (Rom 11:26). They will be restored to the kingdom of God, when they accept Jesus as their Saviour and Lord.

The Times of the Gentiles have now lasted for 2000 years, far longer than God intended. The delay occurred because Christians have failed to share the gospel to the Jewish people. For most of the Times of the Gentiles, Christians persecuted Jews, which was wrong. In more recent times, they have encouraged Israeli militarism, which is no better. The proper response is to share the good news of Jesus with the Jewish people.

The Times of the Gentiles have been extended by the Jewish people looking to military power for their security. Many have placed their hope for safety in the Israeli state. This is a false hope that prevents Jewish people from looking to their true hope. Unfortunately, many Christians have ecouraged them to pursue this false hope. The idea that the Jewish people will be safe in the state of Israel is a lie.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Obstacles to the Kingdom (2) - Times of the Gentiles

Despite many prophecies about the glory of the Kingdom of God, we have not yet seen the victory promised. Many Christians implicitly believe that the Holy Spirit is too weak to bring in the Kingdom of God and that Jesus will have to return to do the job. This is not true. The reason the Holy Spirit has not yet brought in the Kingdom of God is that he has not yet been given the freedom to go hard out. He is restrained until the current season is complete.

Putting this another way, we have not seen the fullness of the Kingdom of God is that we are still living in the season called the Times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24). During this season, the kingdom rises and falls, but cannot reach complete fulfilment. The Holy Spirit cannot establish the Kingdom of God until the Times of the Gentiles are filled up.

Jesus warned the people of Israel that their nation would be left desolate, if they rejected him.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate (Matt 23:37-38).
He followed up with a prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem.
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down" (Matt 24:1,2).
Jesus crucifixion set these prophetic warnings in motion. In AD 70, the Roman armies invaded Israel and destroyed the city of Jerusalem. The Jewish people were slaughtered, expelled and scattered among the nations. Luke’s record of this prophetic warning called it the Times of the Gentiles.
Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:24).
The destruction of Jerusalem marked the beginning of the Times of the Gentiles. Jesus used this name, because during this season, most Jews will be absent from his Kingdom. They have rejected their Messiah and are under judgment of God.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Obstacles to the Kingdom (1)

Most Christians have a totally distorted view of what is going to happen next. They believe that a few signs will be fulfilled, a nasty European Anti-Christ will pop up, then Jesus will return to rule as the divine demagogue. We just have to hang on a bit longer till he returns. Christians with these views love signs and they do not mind failure, because it means that Jesus is getting closer.

The scriptures teach something quite different. Jesus had a mighty victory over evil on the cross. He rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. From there, he poured out the Holy Spirit on the Church. The Holy Spirit is now working on earth through his Church to establish the Kingdom that Jesus inaugurated. He will not return until that task is complete.

Jesus will not return to rescue us. He is returning to receive a kingdom that we (the Holy Spirit and the church) have prepared for him. A little bit of evil will not bring Jesus back. He will not come back to save a struggling church. The only way to speed Jesus return is to allow the Holy Spirit to establish a Kingdom that is a gift worthy of Jesus.

God gave us Daniel and Revelation, so we can understand how the Holy Spirit will bring the Kingdom of God to victory. These books teach that two serious obstacles must be cleared away before the Holy Spirit can establish the Kingdom of God.

  • The Kingdom of God cannot come to fullness during the Times of the Gentiles.

  • Trust in human government undermines the Kingdom of God.

Both these obstacles give power to the forces of evil that must be taken away. I will explain them in more detail and explain how they will be removed in the next few posts.

Taxation is a Moral Issue

All over the world, government have spent huge amounts of money on stimulus packages to rescue their economies from the financial crisis. As a consequence, many are now facing humongous budget deficits. They are looking for efficient ways to increase taxes to pay off some of the debt.

An efficient tax is one that raises large amounts of money, but does not cause taxpayers to shifting their efforts and resources into unproductive activities. If a tax becomes too onerous, taxpayers will find ways to avoid paying the tax by investing in activities that are not taxed, but are less beneficial to the nation.

Economists put a lot of effort into identifying efficient taxes. Unfortunately, they are missing the point. Taxation is not an issue of efficiency. Taxation is a moral issue.

The basic moral questions is quite simple.

  • Is person A morally justified in using force to take money from Person B to give to a cause that person A thinks is important.

  • Is there a moral justification for person A, person C and person D to come together and vote to forcibly take money from person B to give it to person Z, who is poor.

Putting this another way, stealing is taking things that belong to others without their permission. Stealing is morally wrong. Is stealing morally right, if the thief is stealing for a good cause? Is stealing justified, if the thief gives the proceeds to someone who is poor?

From the scriptures, I cannot see any justification for income or wealth to be taken from one person by force and given to another.

If these moral issues are not resolved, discussing efficient taxation is irrelevant. Developing efficient taxation is no different from Robin Hood replacing his bow and arrow with a machine gun.

See Voluntary Taxation for more.

Good Sport in Afghanistan

Obama is a good sport. You can say what you like about Americans, but they always play fair.

The United States has more than 50.000 in Afghanistan. Al Qaida has less 200 fighters. That is not a fair fight. Even if you pretend that the Taliban are members of Al Qaida, any battle would be totally one-sided. Thumping the feeble is not the American way.

Obama the peace-maker has a cunning ideal to make this a fair fight. He is sending another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan to destroy Afghan villages and slaughter woman and children. They will train thousands of Afghan soldiers, who when their training is complete will swap to the other side. Obama will launch more drones to bomb Afghan wedding parties. His coalition partners in Pakistan will destroy hundreds of Pashtun villages with their heavy artillery and helicopters.

These efforts will produce thousands of new recruits for Al Qaida. That is a good, because it will even up the numbers and make the fight fair.

That is the American way.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Obama in Afghanistan

Change that is more of the Same.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Its Our Turn to Eat

I have just read Its Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle Blower by Michela Wrong. This is the story of John Githongo, who was appointed to the position of Permanent Secretary in Charge of Governance and Ethics. He was eventually forced to leave the country after discovering corruption.

This book proves that democracy does not work. In countries with a tribal culture, democracy fosters corruption and racial intolerance.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Chattel Slavery (4) - Greater Protection

Subsequent verses give even greater protection to bonded servants.

If a man hits a manservant or maidservant in the eye and destroys it, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the eye. And if he knocks out the tooth of a manservant or maidservant, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the tooth (Ex 21:26-27).
The previous verses had explained that a person who assaults another, must make full financial compensation to the victim. These verses clarify any confusion about whether these requirements apply to bonded servants.

God’s law actually imposes an even higher standard on people with bonded servants. If a citizen has a tooth knocked out, they must receive full restitution equivalent to the value of the tooth. The value of the tooth would not be that great. If a man assaults his servant and knocks out a tooth, he must let the bonded servant go free by writing off the total debt that was owed.

In most cases, the debt being cancelled would be worth far more than the tooth. This means that the punishment for a assaulting a bonded servant was greater than for assaulting another citizen. Biblical law recognises the fact that bonded servants are in a vulnerable position, so it provides them with greater protection. If man is violent and inflicts physical harm on a bonded a servant, he must release him from his debt. This could be a very severe penalty.

Exodus 21 does not justify slavery, it is actually the opposite. It explains that the laws against assault apply equally to servants, as to citizens. The only exception is that bonded servants receive even greater protection, because they are in a defenceless situation. Exodus provides protection for the weak, it does not take away their rights.

Exodus 21 is a passage specifying punishments for crimes. Therefore it is the last place that you would expect a theology of slavery. Building a justification for chattel slavery on an obtuse translation of a verse that is difficult to translate is quite unwise.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Chattel Slavery (3) - Equal under the Law

The references to servants in Exodus 21 are really important, because they give servants the same protection as other citizens. This is quite unique, as in most other jurisdictions, servants were not protected by the law. The point of Exodus 21:20- 21 is that a master who kills his servant must receive the same punishment as he would if he had killed any other person, as specified in Exodus 21:12-13. Servants were not excluded from the law.

If the servant gets up after a couple of days, the master does not receive the penalty for murder, because the servant will receive financial restitution to compensate him for his injuries. The master must pay silver to the servant as restitution, so he should not receive any physical punishment.

A clearer expression of Exodus 21:20-21 would be the following.

If a man beats his male or female servant with a rod and the servant dies as a direct result, he should receive the penalty for murder, but he if the slave gets up after a day or two, he must not be punished for murder, but the slave should receive financial compensation from him.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Chattel Slavery (2) - Property

The problem with most translations of Exodus 21:20-21 is the last clause: “the slave is his property”. A literal rendering of the Hebrew text is,

He his silver
It is not clear who the “he” refers to. It could be the master and it could be the servant. The same applies to the possessive pronoun “his”.

The Hebrew word used for silver is “keseph”. It is sometime used for coins, but can also refer to silver metal. The same word is used in later in the same chapter to describe the penalty for a man who leaves a dangerous pit open.
And if a man opens a pit, or if a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls in it, the owner of the pit shall make it good; he shall give money to their owner, but the dead animal shall be his (Ex 21:33-34).
The word translated money is “keseph”. In this example, it refers to the money paid to make restitution for harm done to another person. It follows that in Exodus 21:20- 21, the word “keseph” also refers to restitution and not to chattel slavery. The passage is just a further amplification of the law of financial restitution that is described in Exodus 22.

The man does not need any other punishment, because he must make restitution for the damage he has done.

A better translation of the last clause would be,
He must receive some of his silver.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Chattel Slavery (1)

A seriously misunderstood passage is Exodus 21:20-21.

If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.
The passage is often cited as proof that the Bible supported chattel slavery. This is not true, but this idea has been encouraged by bad translation.

The first problem is with the word “slave”. This is a serious mistranslation of the Hebrew. The word translated male slave is “Ebed”. The word translated female slave is “Amah”. The NIV translates these words in different ways in different parts of Exodus 21; as slave in verses 20 and 32, and as servant in verses 26 and 27. There is no reason for the difference, and servant is a better translation.

They boy Samuel called himself the Ebed of God. Gehazzi was the Ebed of Elijah. The suffering servant of Isaiah was an “ebed”. An Ebed might be bonded to his master for a time, because he has fallen into debt, but he would not be a slave in the modern sense of the word. The NIV is quite mischievous in the way it sometimes uses the word slave for this word. The NKJV is more consistent and always uses the word servant. The Israelites were not allowed to enslave their countrymen (Lev 25:39).

The passage refers to servants, not slaves.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Better Economic System (5) - Wealth

Many Christians get upset about disparity in wealth in a modern economy. The blame the economic system.

I have never met a Christian who is upset about their own wealth. I have never met a Christian who says that their income is too large.

If you are upset about your own wealth, the problem is easy to solve. Just give some of it away to someone who is poorer than you. If your income is greater than you need, give it away. Too much wealth is a problem that is easy to solve. Giving is the solution.

Christians who are upset about the unequal distribution of wealth are not upset about their own wealth. They are actually upset about the wealth of other people. They can see people that they think have too much wealth. This is a harder problem to solve. There are only two solutions:

  1. Persuade the wealthy person to freely give some of their wealth away.

  2. Force the wealthy person to hand over their wealth, so it can be given to those with greater need.

The first solution is not very popular, because it will not have much impact.

The simplest way to implement the second solution would be to get a gun, point in the back of too-wealthy people and force them to hand over some of their wealth, but that does not sound very nice. People who want a better economic system are really looking for a way to forcibly take wealth form the people that they think have to much, but without getting their hands dirty. Unfortunately, force is force, whether it comes out of the barrel of a gun, or a larger mob.

The New Testament model for dealing with surplus wealth is generosity and sharing. Forced giving is never part of the solution. The transformation of the gospel and the spirit makes the first option possible. The Spirit will lead some wealthy people into giving to people with insufficient means to prosper. This is the best way to eliminate the problem of inequality that everyone hates.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Better Economic System (4) - America

The American economy is not capitalism.

The American economy is made up of many of many people. Some are good, but many are influenced by a culture that enshrines selfishness, dishonesty, greed and pride.

America is governed by two parties that are almost the same. The real power rests with a coalition of political leaders, big business and military manufacturers. These groups look after their own interests. The largest political donations come from business leaders. In return for this support, the political leaders look after big business and military equipment manufacturers.

American laws protects big business and gives huge powers to large corporations. Limited liability laws foster the growth of big business. Banks are given monopoly powers that enable them to make enormous profits. American values justify the payment of huge bonuses to bankers.

America does not need a new economic system. It needs a new culture renewed by the influence of the Spirit of God. It needs Gods laws. The gospel and the law of God would transform the American economy. The huge businesses that have done so much harm would quickly wither away.

Strangely enough, America does need a new political system. The American political system maintains a fa├žade of liberty, but destroys freedom and distorts the economy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Better Economic System (3) - Communist Russia

The Communist Russian economy was not really a different system. It was really just a very different human morality and a different set of laws.

These laws prevented people from owning property. The political committee in a village could confiscate land and form it into a collective farm.
Laws prevented people from buying and selling freely, because the prices of most goods and services were set by political authorities.

The revolution crushed human values and turn the Russian people into selfish lazy people.

The Russian economy did not need a new system. It needs the gospel and the spirit to change human values. It needs God’s law to restrain greed and selfishness. If those two things were accepted, good business would emerge and evil practices would wither away.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Better Economic System (2) - Law

An economy is shaped by two things: human nature and law.

Law constrains human nature by putting boundaries on what sin and evil can do, but there are limits to what law can do. The only real solution to sin is the cross and the renewal of the spirit.

The best law is God’s law. Under God’s law people are free to buy and sell when they choose, which allows markets to emerge. The law prevents theft, which prevents greedy and selfish people from expropriating things that belong to other (Ex 20:15).

The law recognise land as productive an asset and prevents people from losing their land unjustly (Lev 25:14-17). It recognises the value of working livestock as productive capital that needed greater protection (Ex 22:1). Productive tools and equipment receive extra protection (Deut 14:6).

The laws on weights and measures prevent manipulation and inflation of the currency (Deut 14:13-16).

These laws are all that is needed for an economy function. We do not need an economic system. God’s law is all we need. It allows people to improve their situation by buying and sell. It allows them to accumulate capital, so they can be more productive. Freedom to trade and freedom to accumulate capital is all that is needed for an economy to function.

God’s law does not guarantee that a perfect, fair and abundant economy emerge. Greed, selfishness, dishonesty, pride and foolishness all conspire against that happening. The law explains this clearly (Deut 28:15-68).

When Christians say that they do not like this or that economic system, they are really saying that they do no like God’s decision to make humans free. They are also saying that they do not like God’s law. They assume that we can install some mysterious system that will be better than what God has given us.

What many Christians seem to want is for the state to come in and impose a perfect state of peace, harmony and prosperity. As long as people are free to choose between good and evil, this is impossible. Any solution that state imposes just becomes another vehicle for sin and evil.

God’s law is the best restraint on sin and evil. The gospel and the Spirit are the only cure for sin and evil. Once they have done their work, Christians can create prosperity and plenty by generosity and sharing.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Better Economic System (1)

Many people believe that the world needs a better economic system. Some Christians say that capitalism is a bad system. Others say that capitalism is deficient, but is the best system that exists.

This sort of thinking is confused. An economic system is not something that can be pulled off a shelf and imposed on society. The idea that an economic system can be replaced by another, in the same way that problems with the way an operating system like Microsoft Vista can be resolved by purchasing Windows 7 and installing it over the top is misleading.

An economy is not a machine or computer, but is created by people interacting together. The shape of the economy is determined by the way that people function and interact with each other. An economy is shaped by two things: human nature and law.

Most of what people do not like about an economy is the result of human nature. The fall of man means that greed, selfishness, violence, dishonesty, pride, foolishness have become natural. The recent economic crisis has revealed all these aspects of human nature.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Prophetic Distractions (6) - Jesus is Coming Soon

Most Christians believe that Jesus is coming soon.

The strange thing is that Christians in every age have believed that they were living near the end of the world. For example, Martin Luther thought that he was living near the end of the world. He assumed that Jesus would return during his life time. He was not alone in this view. It has been common since the days of the early church.

Looking at the whole of history, most people who have believed that Jesus was coming soon were wrong. That suggests that we should be careful assuming that Jesus is returning soon. It is easy to be wrong about this.

A belief that Jesus will return during the lifetime of my generation is quite arrogant. It assumes that I belong to a pivotal generation in the purposes of God. I doubt that this is true for me. Looking at the western church, I cannot see how it can be the peak of God’s work on earth.

Humans can only see their own time in history clearly. Even previous the generation seem quite dim. Earlier generations fade into irrelevance. Our limited perspective means that we get deceived about our own importance. In contrast, God sees all generation from the same perspective. I suspect that from his perspective, we are just not that important.

I believe that Jesus’ return is thousands of years away. I will be ready, if I am proved wrong, but I do not believe that Jesus is coming soon. When I study the scriptures, I see thousands of prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled. I cannot see how they can be fulfilled in one generation. One prophecy is that the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Jesus. If such a glorious season were to last only a few years, it would not really be glorious. I can imagine this glorious time lasting for thousands of years.

Does it matter? Yes it does. When Christians believe Jesus is coming soon, they fall into short-term thinking. Many in my generation gave up their university studies, because they believed that Jesus would return before they graduated. Short-term thinking prevents people from investing in activities that will only bring benefits in future generations. This lack of long term commitment has crippled the church and held back the Kingdom of God.

Cultures that lose hope for the future collapse inwards and die. That is what seems to be happening to the Western church, as belief in the imminent return of Jesus has become pervasive.

Of course, there is a sense in which all those who died believing that Jesus would come soon were correct. Jesus came for them on the day that they died. Given that death was never far away throughout their lives, it was true that Jesus was coming for them soon.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Prophetic Distractions (6) - The Big Gap

Looking for a gap in Daniel 9:24-27 is another prophetic distraction. This gap is used to twist Daniel's vision to justify the belief that there will be a seven year tribulation, just prior to Christ’s second coming. Those with this view see the passage as a description of the activities of the anti-christ. Careful study will show that it is really a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem.

The seventy "sevens" are seventy weeks of years. The expression describes a period lasting 490 years (70x7). The starting point is given in verse 25. Daniel is told that the seventy "sevens" will begin "from the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem". This decree was issued by Artaxerxes King of Persia in the time of Nehemiah (Neh 2:1-9), so it would have been issued in about 445 B.C.

Six events are decreed for the seventy "sevens". They were all fulfilled through the ministry of Jesus. It is generally believed that Jesus was crucified soon after A.D. 30, so his ministry falls at the end of the seventy "sevens". The six events decreed are:

  1. "to finish the transgression". The Jews filled up their cup of iniquity by condemning Jesus to death. The transgressions of the nation were filled up.

  2. "to put an end to sin". Jesus was the lamb of God who took away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

  3. "to atone for wickedness". Jesus’ death on the cross was an atonement for wickedness.

  4. "to bring in everlasting righteousness". Christ is our righteousness (1 Cor 1:30), so his people have an eternal righteousness in him.

  5. "to seal up vision and prophecy". With the coming of Jesus the vision and prophecy of the Old Testament period was brought to completion. It was sealed up in Jesus.

  6. "to annoint the most holy". The word Messiah means "annointed one", and Jesus was the Messiah who fulfilled this part of the vision.

The angel was promising Daniel that the Messiah would come within 500 years of the decree to restore Jerusalem. The birth and ministry of Jesus fulfilled the promise.

A number of events are specified for the last "seven" (Dan 9:26,27). A number of commentators say that a seven year tribulation just before the second coming is being described. To support this view, they put in a gap between sixty-ninth and the seventieth "week", which coincides with the church age. This allows them to place the events of the last week thousands of years after the events of the earlier "weeks". There is no justification for this. Daniel makes no mention of a gap, and there is no precedent for one in any other part of the Bible. An examination of the events described shows that they all occurred within about 500 years of the decree for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. This is what we would expect from the statement that seventy "sevens" were decreed.

Four events are decreed for the last "seven" (vv.26,27)
  1. "The Annointed one will be cut off and will have nothing". This is a description of the death of Jesus. His life was "cut off". At his death he was deserted by all his disciples, and left with nothing.

  2. "The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: war will continue to the end and desolations have been decreed". This very vividly describes the destruction of Jerusalem. The people of the ruler was the Roman army. They destroyed the city and the temple. There was war to the end, which came like a flood of terrible desolation.

  3. "He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven’, but in the middle of that ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering". The person referred to here is not the coming ruler, who would destroy the city, but the Messiah mentioned in verse 26. Jesus established a covenant which has brought salvation to great numbers of people. During the last "seven" which covered his whole life, from birth to ascension, Jesus confirmed a covenant which would last for ever. The effect of the new covenant is to put an end to sacrifices and offerings. The perfect sacrifice of Jesus makes them unnecessary.

  4. "and one who causes desolation will come on the wings of abominations until the end that is decreed is poured out on the desolate". This is a more literal translation than is usually given. Misleading translations have caused a lot of misunderstanding about this verse. The subject of this verse, the one who makes desolate, is not the one who made the covenant, but the Roman ruler, who would destroy Jerusalem. His coming was an abomination for the Jewish people. The desolation is not poured out on a person, but on those who are desolate. The Jews were a desolate people once they had rejected the Messiah. Jesus was referring to this when he told them that their house would be left desolate (Matt 23:38).

The vision given to Daniel is a description of the events surrounding the life of Jesus. He was told of the salvation that Jesus would bring. And although he may not have understood it, he was also told that his people would reject the Messiah and be destroyed. If the Jews had understood this passage, they would have known the time when the Messiah would come and what would happen to them. Perhaps Simeon and Anna did understand this passage and realise that they lived in the time when the seventy sevens would be complete.

The vision is not a description of the manoeuvrings of the anti-christ or a tribulation that is yet to come. It is a description of the ministry of Jesus, his rejection by the Jews, and their consequent destruction.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Prophetic Distractions (5) - This Generation

Another prophetic distraction has been the word "generation" in Matthew 24:35.

I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
The confusion about this statement is strange, because Jesus words are precise and clear. The events Jesus described in the previous verses were close and would take place with in the lifetimes of most of his listeners.

I have watched with amusement as the length of a generation has expanded from 25 years to 40 years, and now to 51 years, and the starting point shifted from 1948 to 1967. I can imagine that Christians will soon be quoting Psalm 90:10 to prove that a generation is 70 or 80 years, or perhaps they will choose another "prophetic marker" to extend the time frame into the future.

I cannot understand why Christians refuse accept the straightforward meaning of Jesus's words. Going through verbal gymnastics to squeeze out a different meaning is a distraction.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Prophetic Distractions (4) - Prophetic Markers

Many Christians see the emergence of Israel is a marker for biblical prophecy.

The reality is that it was just one event that had to happen. At some point God will open the eyes of the Jews and they will acknowledge Jesus as saviour and Lord. This event, often referred to as the Calling of the Jews, is the next epochal event in history. Before it can happen, at least some of the Jews had to return to the land of Palestine.

However the process by which this happened was probably not God’s perfect plan. There are many prophecies about this event in the Old Testament, but most speak of people returning in faith and in peace and blessing. These have not been fulfilled yet. We have not yet seen the real miracle that God promised.

Ezekiel 38:8 seems to speak of God’s second best.

In the latter years you will come into the land that is restored by the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste.
This is not a return in peace and blessing, but a return “by the sword”. The birth of the nation was accomplished by secular men and women by political and military power. It was the work of a well organised nationalism rather than an act of God. The expansion of Israel has been accomplished by political alliances and military power. God allowed this to happen, because he can use all things for good, but that does not mean that this was his perfect plan.

The emergency of Israel had to happen so that God’s greater purposes can be achieved, but we cannot be sure that the timing of these events happened exactly according to his plan. They may have happened before God intended. Therefore, it is risky to turn the years 1948 or 1967 into markers for prophetic history.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Prophetic Distractions (3) - Israel Determines History

In recent years a strange doctrine has emerged. A belief has emerged that what happens in the church is determined by what happens in the nation of Israel. Some Bible teachers urge Christians to watch what is happening in Israel to understand what is happening in the church. This is a false teaching.

Firstly, what happens in the church is determined by the Holy Spirit. He is not constrained by political or national leaders in any nation. The only thing that constrains his work is the unwillingness of Christians to go with him. We can hold back his activity by refusing to trust and obey him.

Secondly, the leaders of the nation of Israel are not Christians. They have refused to acknowledge that Jesus is their messiah. They do not walk in the Spirit, so they do not hear his voice. Many are totally secular. They do not acknowledge God. They do not honour his law. The leaders of Israel continue to disobey the law, so they are living outside the blessing of the covenant. A nation in this state cannot be the determiner of the Holy Spirit’s work on earth.

There truth is the reverse. What happens on earth is largely determined by the church. When the church is weak and lost, the world goes down hill. When the church is in touch with the Holy Spirit and walks in his power, the world is changed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prophetic Distractions (2) - Bible Codes

The Bible codes is another prophetic distraction. It is a series of messages supposedly contained within the Bible text, that when decoded into words and phrases demonstrate demonstrating foreknowledge and prophecy. The primary method for extracting messages is the Equidistant Letter Sequence. A starting point (in principle, any letter) and a skip number are chosen. Beginning at the starting point, letters are selected form the text at equal spacing, according to skip number. For example, if the skip number is ten, then every tenth number is taken. Most people using this method work with the Hebrew text of the Torah.

This method has a couple of problems.

  1. The most serious problem is that we do not have a completely accurate version of the Hebrew Bible. Even the Masoretic text, which is generally considered to be the most reliable, is fully of minor errors. In places words are missing, and in other places words appear to have been added. This is the natural consequence of copying by hand over many centuries. This does not matter for understanding the meaning, as most of these glosses do not affect the meaning at all. However, it becomes a serious problem for counting sequences of characters, as just one character missing, will change the rest of the sequence.

  2. If we had the original Hebrew text, the equidistant letter sequence would give a totally different set of words and phrases. The fact that we do not have the original text, means that even if God had put words into the original Hebrew Text, we cannot get at them, because we do not have that text.

  3. There are a huge number of starting characters and a huge number of skip numbers that can be chosen. What comes out of the process will determined by the original choices. I am suspicious of any method that relies on trawling many options to get something meaningful. You can only find what you already know.

  4. I came across an article in a statistical journal that used the equidistant letter sequence method in Tolstoy’ War and Peace. The authors found a whole lot of predictive words and phrases. War and Peace is a wonderful novel, but I do no believe that Tolstoy was so inspired that God used him to hide a prophetic message.

The Bible Code is a bit of a distraction. Even if Hitler’s name is hidden somewhere in the Hebrew Torah, it does not help me to be a better Christian. I would prefer ten clear words spoken by the Holy Spirit to a thousand words from a Bible code.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Prophetic Distractions (1) - Hebrew Calendar

A prophetic distraction that has emerged among Christians in recent years is to take the Hebrew calendar and look at the meaning of the number for a year and use that to explain what God is going to do. I have several problems with this practice.

  1. The Holy Spirit inspired the scriptures. He has not inspired a calendar.

  2. There is no guarantee that the Hebrew calendar has numbered the number of years since Adam’s birth correctly. Biblical scholars have considerable disagreement about how a Biblical chronology should be calculated, so the number of years that elapsed during certain parts of history uncertain. Estimates of the year of Adam’s birth by serious biblical scholars vary by a couple of hundred years. Jewish scholars disagree about the date of the first temple and the exile. All this means that we cannot be absolutely certain that the year we have currently started is actually 5770 years from the birth of Adam. If several years were missed in a couple of places, we might be only in the year 5760 and the connection between current events and the meaning of 5770 breaks down.

  3. Over a long period of history calendars can easily go wrong. According to our Gregorian calendar, which was maintained during the dark ages by careful Christian monks, we are supposedly in the 2009th year since the birth of Jesus. We now know that was probably wrong. Mathew says he was born under during the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4 BC. Luke describes dates his birth against first census of the Roman provinces of Syria and Iudaea, which probably took place in 6 BC. If these dates are correct, we are actually living in the year 2014 or thereabouts. That is why I did not get excited about the year 2000. I knew it was not actually the year 2000, but probably about the year 2005.

  4. The truth is that we cannot be absolutely certain about the exact number of years that have elapsed, either since the creation of Adam, or from the birth of Jesus. That does not matter. We can get on and do God’s work, with out having an exact answer to that question. However, it does become a serious problem, if we want to use dates in either the Gregorian or Hebrew calendar to predict the future. The dates are just too uncertain for much significance to be placed on them.

  5. God works out his plans in history. His plans are not determined by planets or by numbers, but come from his heart. The idea that events on earth are shaped by the numbers on a calendar is only one step away from the view of the astrologers that events are on earth are determined by the movements of the planets. It is an insult to the character and power of God.

  6. The Holy Spirit loves to speak. He can speak clearly. He said to Agabus, “A severe famine is going to spread throughout the Roman Empire” (Act 11:28). That is just example of what he is capable of doing. Christian prophets should focus on learning to hear the Holy Spirit speak. Looking for signs in dates and shadows is a pointless distraction.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Polticians and Glory

Why is that when there is any glory going down, the political leaders turn up flies round a cow pat. The fall of the Berlin wall is a case in point.

Gordon Brown the British Prime Minister was clear that political leaders had nothing to do with the fall of the wall. He said,

This wall was torn down not by the demands of political leaders, not by dictat from on high, not by the force of military might but by the greatest force of all - the unbreakable spirit of the men and women of Berlin.
Despite having nothing to do with fall, when the time came to celebrate the fall of the wall, all the political leaders were there in the front row.

Even Hillary Clinton was there basking in the glory of the wall. I am not sure why. The wall was only there because the Russians won the Second World War.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Capitalism and Big Business

Capitalism does not create big business. The State created big business. Large corporations are the result of limited liability laws and other laws that protect big business. Banks that are too big to fail are the result financial regulation.

The American system is not capitalism. It is a system of collusion between political power, business power and military power. (The technical name for this system is fascism, but most Americans are not ready to accept that yet.) This collusion between politicians, big business and the military system has produced the problems that America is now facing. Further regulation will not resolve these problems, but will give more protection to business, which will eventually leader to a new crisis.

Capitalism needs very few laws to function effectively: a law against theft; a law providing for contracts to be enforced; and not much more.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Capitalism and Socialism

Capitalism is system that allows people to pool their resources to be more productive and earn more income. People are free to use that income as they choose. They can choose to give it to others.

Socialism is system of distribution, in which political power is used to compulsorily take the stuff that one group of people have produced and give to others. That does not sound like the gospel to me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Matthew 24 (11) - Clear and Precise

Jesus' message in Matthew 24 is a wonderful example of a clear precise prophecy.

Jesus was very clear about what would happen. The walls of the temple would be smashed and destroyed. This prophecy was fulfilled.

Jesus explained clearly why these events would happen. They would be the consequence of the stuff described in the previous chapter.

When asked when these things would happen, he gave a very precise answer. They would not happen immediately, but they would come in the lifetime of most of the people listening.

Jesus gave good advice about what people should do when the troubles started. They should flee to the mountains. Those who heeded this warning were kept safe (Acts 4:36-37).

Jesus also gave a couple of signs that would show them when the time to action was close (Jerusalem surrounded by an army). This prophecy was fulfilled, too.

Jesus also warned them not to be deceived by wars, famines, earthquakes and false religions. These types of event are ubiquitous in every age, so they are not a sign of anything, except that a people have lost the blessing of God.

When asked about the second coming, Jesus said two things. First he did not know when it would happen. Second, there would be no signs of the second coming. It would occur when life was going on as normal on earth, so most people including Christians will not be expecting it.

Jesus also explained that this lack of signs does not matter. He told several parables, which explain what we should do. “Get on with doing the job you are called to do, so you will be ready when Jesus returns”.

This is all very clear and precise, and gave Jesus listeners everything that they needed to know. Nothing is missing. No unanswered questions. But many Christians cannot accept Jesus’ clear precise message and turn it into something confusing, with multiple fulfilments, so that they can get what they want.

They ignore Jesus’ statement that there will be no signs for the second coming and try to find signs.

They ignore Jesus’ statement that he does not know the day and the hour, and claim that they can know the month and the year and the season.

They ignore Jesus’ explanation that famines, earthquakes and wars are common in every unrighteous age, and turn them into the true signs of the second coming.

No wonder many Christians are confused.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Matthew 24 (10) - This Generation

Matthew 24:35 is one of the most “beaten up” texts in the New Testament. Jesus made an emphatic statement.

I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
The confusion about this statement is strange, because Jesus words are precise and clear. Some things will happen. The things that will happen are described in the phrase “all these things”. In the Greek text this is “tauta panta”. This alludes back to Matthew 23:36 and the judgements described earlier in that chapter.
I tell you the truth, all these things (tauta panta) will come upon this generation.
The phrase is used again in Matthew 23:34.
Even so, when you see all these things (tauta panta), you know that it is near, right at the door.
Jesus description of the the traumatic events are marked off a the beginning and the end by the phrase all these things (tauta panta).

The expression also alludes to the original question asked by the disciples. They asked when the temple stones would be cast down and smashed.
Tell us when will this (tauta) happen?
Matt 24:4-33 describes what will happen in precise detail. Therefore, the passage is a description of the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the collapse of the temple.

Jesus also explained exactly when these things would happen. They would not happen immediately and some other events must happen first. However the events are quite close and would take place with in the lifetimes of most of his listeners. People should be prepared and ready to take the appropriate action to escape.

All this is quite straightforward.

Unfortunately, during the 1960s, Hal Lindsay and his mates decided that the fig tree is a reference to the state of Israel. They decided that a whole series of so-called end-time events would take place within a generation of 1948. This interpretation did not come out of Matthews gospel, but was read into it.

They determined a generation as 25 years and that Jesus would return in about 1973 (1948 +25). This was fine during the 1960s when the western world was unstable and 1973 was a far off. However, 1973 came and went without anything untoward happening. The so-called prophets did not admit they were wrong, but started to scramble for a way out.

I have watched with amusement as the length of a generation has expanded from 25 years to 40 years, and now to 51 years, and the starting point shifted from 1948 to 1967. I can imagine that Christians will soon be quoting Psalm 90:10 to prove that a generation is 70 or 80 years, Will Isaiah 65:20 be used to prove that a generation is 100 years long, in an attempt to avoid admitting that their shonky predictions are wrong.

I cannot understand why Christians refuse accept the straightforward meaning of Jesus's words. These things that he described in Matthew 24:4-34 would happen during the lifetime of people present when he was speaking. I cannot see any point in going through verbal gymnastics to squeeze out a different meaning.

The problem is that Christians want to push the passage into the future. I cannot see why that is so important, as there are plenty of other biblical passages that describe the future for us. We do not need this passage for the future, unless we a stuck a particular version of eschatology. It would be more honest to let that failed doctrine go.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Matthew 24 (9) - Great Tribulation

There is common teaching that a seven year tribulation will follow a secret rapture of the Christians from the earth. The truth is that there is no place in either the Old or New Testament where a seven year tribulation is explicitly mentioned. Although this idea is popular, it has no basis in the scriptures.

Most Christians would be surprised to discover that the "greatest tribulation" has already occurred, when Jerusalem was besieged and destroyed by the Roman armies in AD 70. When prophesying this event, Jesus said,

How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers..... For there will be a great tribulation, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now - and never to be equalled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive (Matt 24:20-22).
The destruction of Jerusalem was an absolutely terrible event. Anyone who does not believe this should read the account by the Jewish historian Josephus. This means that the greatest tribulation which will ever take place on earth has already occurred.

Tribulation is actually a normal part of the Christian life. We are taught in the Bible that we should always expect tribulation.
In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world. John 16:33 (NASB)
We must go through many tribulations to enter the kingdom of God. Acts 14:22
Tribulation will be a normal experience for Christians in every age. When they are true to Christ, they will be a threat to the world, and this will always bring opposition. The Greek word "thlipsis", which is translated as tribulation, affliction or trouble, literally means pressure. Our word tribulation comes from the Latin word for threshing sledge. It often refers to trouble in a spiritual sense, and describes the pressure that all Christians will experience if they live in obedience to Jesus.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Matthew 24 (8) - Son of Man in Heaven

A passage that is often misunderstood is Matthew 24:30.

At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.
The first part of this verse is often misunderstood, because it has been incorrectly translated. I have given a literal translation of the Greek text. The verse is often interpreted (and translated) as if it was a description of the second coming. There are a number of reasons why this is not true.
  1. This is one of the events that Jesus said must happen before the generation listening had passed away. That generation did not see the second coming, so Jesus must have been describing something else. Various interpreters have twisted these words to give them a futuristic meaning, but the most obvious meaning is that Jesus was speaking to those who were listening.

  2. Jesus told the high priests that they would see the same thing.

    The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his clothes (Matt 26:63,64).
    The priest who tried Jesus did not see the second coming, but they did see the fall of Jerusalem.

  3. It is not the Son of Man who appears in the heavens. The sign that he is in heaven appears. It is a sign that appears, not the Son of Man.

  4. The Greek word translated as "coming" is erchomai. Jesus uses a different word (parousia) in the second part of the chapter, when speaking about the second coming (Matt 24:27,37,39). It means "coming, appearing or presence". The fact that Jesus uses a different word here is an indication that he is not speaking of the second coming.

  5. Jesus had already made it clear that his second coming has no connection with the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt 24:23-28). The event described in this verse comes "immediately" after it.

The verse is actually speaking about the vindication of Jesus. A sign proving that he is in heaven will appear on the earth. Events on earth will prove that Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of God, ruling over the whole of creation. Jesus is telling his disciples that the time will come when he will be vindicated. The sign of Jesus' vindication was the destruction of Jerusalem. It was destroyed in an exact fulfilment of his words. This was proof that what he said was true. It also meant the destruction of those who opposed him, which proved that God was with him.

By putting an end to the Jewish system of sacrifices and offerings, God was showing that Jesus was the true saviour. The destruction of the capital city was a sign that Jesus is crowned as king in heaven. (The advance of the gospel described in Matthew 24:31 was also part of that sign.)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Matthew 24 (7) - Abomination of Desolation

A common belief is that a future Antichrist will set up an altar to himself in the Jerusalem temple. This event is often called the Abomination of Desolation. The expression "abomination that causes desolation" comes from Daniel 9:27. Some Bible teachers teach incorrectly that Daniel’s prophecy refers to the end of the world. This is not correct. The passage describes the effects of the cross and the destruction of Jerusalem .

Jesus confirmed this interpretation when warning his disciples of the destruction of Jerusalem. When asked for a sign, he warned of a number of false signs that would occur. He then gave the key sign. Its fulfilment would mean that the destruction of Jerusalem is at hand.

So when you see standing in the holy place "the abomination that causes desolation," spoken of through the prophet Daniel - let the reader understand - then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains (Matt 24 15,16).
The meaning of the expression is made clear by Luke in his account of Jesus' words. He records Jesus' explanation of his words:
When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city (Luke 21:20,21).
The "abomination that causes desolation" is not some future antichrist, but quite simply the Roman army surrounding Jerusalem. It would make the city desolate. The Roman army is called an abomination because it carried ensigns consisting of eagles and images of the emperor. These were often worshipped by the soldiers. In the Bible an abomination is an idolatrous practice.

The sign that the desolation of Jerusalem is at hand was the Roman army surrounding Jerusalem. When they saw this sign the Christians were to flee to the mountains. There was a tremendous urgency attached to this warning.
Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of his house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers. Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath (Matt 24:17-20).
There would be no time to wait around or to gather possessions together. The flight would have to be instantaneous to avoid being caught by the siege.

Jesus' warning saved the lives of many of his followers. Although a million Jews lost their lives in the siege of Jerusalem, none of them were Christians. The Christians heeded Jesus' warning and fled at the first signs of the siege.

Jesus' words were also a warning not to confuse the siege of Jerusalem with the events described in Zechariah 14. That passage describes a siege in which the Lord would miraculously rescue his people. Many Jews expected this to happen in AD 70, but were disappointed. Jesus' warning makes it clear that Zechariah 14 describes a later stage in Jewish history. His disciples did not expect this dramatic rescue in AD 70. They knew in advance that Jerusalem would be destroyed.

The abomination of desolation has already occurred. Christians should not be looking forward to it happening in the future.