Monday, January 31, 2011

Antithesis 1

Jesus will not return as soon as Christians expect. The stream of teaching that spreads this view has been wrong over and over again for more than 200 years. The almost universal belief that second coming is close at hand makes Christians pessimistic about the Kingdom of God.

Those who predict the second coming have a strong track record of being wrong. Christians in nearly every age have believed that they were living in the last days and that the second coming was near (eg Martin Luther). Subsequent history has always proved them wrong. Even in our own time, the end-time prophets have constantly postponed their timetables. I can remember when Jesus was expected to come in 1988, a generation after the establishment of Israel. That prediction seems foolish now, as do many of their Y2K prognostications.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Five Questions

Who is best equipped to bring in the Kingdom of God?

a. Jesus
b. The Holy Spirit
How long will the Kingdom of God last?
a. Thousand Years
b. Thousand Generations
What is Israel’s role in the Kingdom?
a. The centre from which Jesus rules the Kingdom
b. An obstacle to the Kingdom until the Holy Spirit opens their eyes.
Jesus report card?
a. Jesus must return and finish a half done job.
b. Jesus has finished his work
How will the world come to salvation?
a. Seeing Jesus when he returns
b. The Holy Spirit drawing people to Jesus.

The answer to all questions is b.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thesis 25 - Last One

When Jesus returns at the consumption of all things, he will receive the kingdom that has been prepared for him by his church and the Holy Spirit(1 Cor 15:25). He will hand it over to Father, who will be all in all (1 Cor 15:24).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thesis 24

God is not stingy. He will not be satisfied with getting a couple of billion people into heaven. It would be an insult to his grace. God’s mercy and the enormous sacrifice of Jesus deserve a hundred billion people in heaven.

To get hundreds of billions of people into the kingdom, life on earth will have to go on for a good many more generations yet. God promised at least five times that he is faithful to a thousand generation (Deut 7:9, 1 Chron 16:15, Ps 105:8). Some numbers in scriptures are used figuratively, but if any number deserves to be taken literally, surely it is this one. For God is to keep this promise covenant, a thousand generations of people would have to live on earth subsequent to his promise.

A new generation is born on earth about every twenty years, so we have had about 500 generations since the time of Abraham. This means that we could have another 500 generations on earth, or 10,000 years, to fulfil God’s promise. That would be just about right to get the full number of people that God wants into the kingdom.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thesis 23

The kingdom of God is a voluntary kingdom that is totally different from the kingdoms of the world. Coercion and force have no place in it (Matt 26:53). Jesus established the Kingdom by submitting to the political powers and freely dying on the cross, a totally different way of doing kingdom. His Kingdom will not be established by military power and political coercion, but by suffering and service. everyone who wants to be part of it should understand this truth.

Jesus rules in a totally different way from other kings. No threats! No shouting! No Fear! No detailed regulations! No coercion! No force! No security services seeking out opposition! No torture for opponents of the Kingdom. Jesus whispers in our ears through the voice of the Spirit. He does not force us to do things that we hate to do, so obeying his voice is freedom and joy. Jesus Kingdom comes when most people in earth obey that voice, because they love Jesus.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thesis 22

With the last two obstacles removed, the Holy Spirit will be free to advance the Kingdom powerfully. The knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Hab 2:14).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thesis 21

The Holy Spirit will move in the hearts of the Jewish people during the climatic time to produce a create flood of repentance. He will remove the blindness that has hardened their hearts to Jesus. A Christian remnant will preach the gospel with love and boldness, and most of Israel will come to faith in a very short season.

I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication (Zech 12:10)

Thesis 20

When the nation of Israel reaches rock bottom and confidence in military power is broken in fulfilment of judgement, the nation will be rescued by Christian prophets announcing judgement against the nations that have attacked it out of spite. This event will trigger the worldwide collapse of human government.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thesis 19

The next big event on earth is the Calling of the Jews. The people of Israel will come to faith in Jesus by having their spiritual eyes opened, not by Jesus returning to Jerusalem.

Thesis 18

The Season of Distress will really get underway, when violent men in Israel take actions to fulfil a despicable vision for their nation. They will fail badly.

Now in those times... violent men of your people shall exalt themselves in fulfillment of the vision, but they shall fall.(Dan 11:14).
Most Christians will be disillusioned with Israel, and the nations will turn against it with a vengeance, which will culminate in Palestine being invaded by the United States.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thesis 17

The state of Israel has been a humanistic project, founded on political manipulation and military power. Many Christians have fallen for the clever propaganda that surrounds it. The rottenness at the heart of the nation will be exposed during the Season of Distress.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Thesis 16

The last obstacle to the Kingdom will be removed by the Calling of the Jews. During the Times of the Gentiles, Satan has authority to hassle and hound the Jewish people. Whenever he wants to work evil on earth, he stirs up people against the Jews and then he has power to do evil. Hitler is one example.

Being Church on Kindle

My book called Being Church Where We Live can now be purchased from as an electronic book for reading on your Kindle.

If you do not have a Kindle, do not worry. You can read the book on Kindle for PC, which can be downloaded free.


I have just completed reading a book by Victoria Clark called “Yemen: Dancing on the Heads of Snakes”.

I found the book quite frustrating. It was good in parts and annoying in others.

Like many books written by a journalist, she intersperses the history of Yemen with accounts of her meetings with various people she met while researching the book. This is distracting, and often verges on the name-dropping. I wish she had put more effort into describing the way that the people of Yemen live from day to day.

The first half of the book gives the history of Yemen from beginnings of the Ottoman Empire up to the present day. She tells this story well, so I found this part of the book really helpful.

The second half of the book was really frustrating. It was mostly an assessment of Yemen as a partner with the UK and the USA in the War against Terrorism. She does not pause to ask, if Yemen should be joining in the so-called war. From this part of the book, I go the impression that she does not even like the Yemeni people, a fairly important requirement for writing a good book.

Only in the last few pages does she write about the political, economic and social forces that are pulling Yemen apart. I sense that she could have written much more on this theme, but was prevented from doing so by here editors, because it would not go down so well with the potential purchasers of the book in the UK and the USA. They do not want to understand Yemen. They just want a scapegoat to blame.

Yemen sits in a strategic place in the world. The more that we know about it the better. Despite my frustration with the book, I would encourage people to read it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ascension Gifts (9) - Ministry

Christians should stop using the word “ministry, as it has now totally changed its meaning from when it was first used.

In the modern world, the word minister is used for the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence or Finance Minister. The United States calls them Secretaries (which dramatically changes the meaning of another word), but in the rest of the world they are called ministers. The word minister refers to a position of power.

A government minister exercised control through a ministry: the ministry of defence or the ministry of internal affairs. A ministry is a bureaucracy. I presume there was a time when political power pretended to be servants of the people, but those times are long gone.
When the word minister is used by the church, it refers to a paid professional or the CEO of a local church, which is not much better.

The modern words minister and ministry have no connection with the gifts listed in Ephesians 4. The word the King James Version translated as minister or ministry is “diakonos”, which is the Greek word for “servant”. It is used to describe an attendant, who runs errand for his master. This is the total opposite of the modern meaning of the word.

The English word minister comes from Latin word “minister” which means 'servant.' It derives from a Latin word meaning “minus” or “less”. It actually refers to a lowly position. We have lost that understanding of the word, so Christians can no longer use to describe roles in the church without creating confusion or justifying power and control.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thesis 15

During the Season of Distress, human government will collapse and political rulers will flee and hide. Faith in human government will be destroyed forever, opening the way for the government of God.

Thesis 14

Human government has reached a climax in the emergence of democratic nationalism, but this will prove to be a false hope.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thesis 13

The second-last obstacle to the kingdom that must be removed is faith in human government. For the last few centuries, political leaders have promised to solve every problem on earth. The people of the world have fallen for these false promises and put their faith in human government.

Thesis 12

The last obstacles to the Kingdom will be removed during a Season of Distress.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thesis 11

The Holy Spirit has not yet given Kingdom building his best shot, because he is restrained until the Times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:24).

Thesis 10

Sin is an obstacle to the Kingdom, but the Spirit is able to convict the world of sin and teach people to obey Jesus (John 16:8).

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thesis 9

The Holy Spirit hears what Jesus is saying and reveals it to his people. When most of the people on earth obey the voice of the Spirit, they will be doing Jesus will. God’s will would be being done on earth, so his kingdom would have come.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Thesis 8

The Holy Spirit is the kingdom builder. He will work in the church to bring all things into submission to Jesus.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Thesis 7

Jesus can accomplish far more in the present age through the Holy Spirit, than he ever could by returning to Jerusalem. Whereas Jesus is confined by place and time, the Holy Spirit is omnipotent and omnipresent. That is why Jesus said it was better for him to go away, so the Holy Spirit could come (John 16:7). Working through the Spirit, Jesus can extend his power and influence throughout the entire earth.

Thesis 6

The Devil was totally defeated by the cross.

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil (Heb 2:14).
He will not be destroyed by a future coming. He was destroyed by Jesus death.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Thesis Five

The Holy Spirit has all the fullness of God. The devil is a fallen angel who is constrained by time and can only be in one place at time. Only one third of the angels fell from grace, so two thirds of the angels are still working for Jesus. The spiritual forces working for Jesus far outnumber those working for evil; no contest.

Thesis Four

The Church does not build the Kingdom. We receive the Kingdom, as the Holy Spirit works (Matt 12:28; Luke 10:9).

We must be careful not to say that "The church establishs the kingdom", as that has connotations of the church imposing its will on an unwilling world.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thesis Three - Disciples

Jesus gave authority over the earth to all his disciples him and commissioned them to go forth and receive his kingdom (Matt 28:19-20).

Thesis Two - King of Heaven and Earth

Jesus death and resurrection earned him authority over heaven and earth.

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Matt 28:18).
He now reigns as king of heaven and earth, so he does not need to return to establish his Kingdom.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thesis One - Finished

Jesus has completed his ministry on earth. His work is finished.

Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.(John 19:30).
He has some everything he had to do and could to establish the Kingdom.

Theses for Eschatology

Jesus said that we should “Seek first the Kingdom”. Since I became a Christian, I have always tried to do this.

The more that I have studied the Kingdom of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, the more I have been forced to modify my by views about eschatology. The problem is that the people who developed the end-times teaching that has swept the Christian world in the last century did not have a very clear understanding of the Kingdom of God. When end-time teaching confronts the Kingdom of God, the former must give way to the latter. As a greater understanding of the importance of the Kingdom of God emerges, much of the widely-accepted end-times teaching fall away.

My study of the Kingdom of God has led to a vastly different understanding of God’s plan for history. In a series of posts over the next few weeks, I will present twenty-five theses for the Kingdom of God. Each of these seems to be obvious to me, and based in the scripture, so I will be interested in what others think.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Ascension Gifts (8) - Fourfold not Fivefold

The Ascension Gifts are often referred to as the fivefold ministries. This is wrong for two reasons. First they are not ministries, but giftings of elders. More serious still. There are only four gifts, not five as is often assumed.

Ephesians 4:11 is very clear on this one. It has definite structure using the phrase “men de” in Greek, or “some to be” in English.

some to be apostles
some to be prophets
some to be evangelists
some to be pastors and teachers.
If Paul considered there were five giftings, he would have written:
some to be pastors
and some to be teachers.
Because Paul did not write this, I have to assume that pastor and teacher is a single ministry, which means there are only four giftings.

Anyone who can read can see that Paul carefully stated that there are four gifts, but the church has consistently ignored this, so it can justify having the gift of the teacher. The group with the greatest vested interest in this are those who want to be teachers.

Paul is fairly clear that teaching by itself is dangerous. The reason is that knowledge puffs up.
We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Cor 8:1).
This is a serious problem with the so-called teaching ministry. Teaching just imparts knowledge, and knowledge puffs up. I know that many Christians have had their lives changed by listening to good teaching. However, I am sure that many more just listen and think to themselves that what they had read or heard was good. But then do nothing with it. I suspect that good teaching may have puffed up more Christians than it actually built up. That is what happens with knowledge is imparted apart from love.

Teaching has Changed
The problem arises from a false understanding of what the New Testament means by "teaching". We mostly think of teaching as a transfer of information and skills. Modern teaching is usually a process whereby an expert passes on information to a group of students. They are quite free to ignore what is taught.

For the early Christians teaching was something quite different. They saw it as an activity involving personal direction and an exercise of authority. It took place within a relationship where the teacher had authority over the student. A student would submit himself to a teacher, whose lifestyle he admired. His aim would be to learn the way of life, and the truths which underlay it. So a teacher did not just give his views. He laid out what he expected the student to believe, and the way he expected him to live. So teaching in the New Testament was more like what we call "discipling". It included the formation of character.

We can see this in the way that Jesus taught his twelve disciples. He did not just impart information to them. By living in close proximity with them for three years, he developed a strong relationship with them. They submitted to Jesus and carried out all his instructions. He had complete authority over them. In this way he formed their lives into a likeness of his own. And throughout the New Testament, teaching takes place within a similar pastoral relationship.

This all means that there are on four gifts listed in Ephesians 4, and "pastor and teacher" is one gifting. Every elder who teaches should be pastoring, and every elder who pastors should be teaching (1 Timothy 3:2).

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Ascension Gifts (7) - Just Elders

Ephesians 4 does not define the ascension gifts; it just lists them without definition. We have to go to other scriptures to find a description of these giftings. We generally find that they are being fulfilled by elders.

Apostles are Elders

Some elders are apostles. The apostle John saw himself as an elder (2 John 1; 3 John 1). The apostle Peter also called himself an elder (1 Pet 1:1; 5:1). Pauls was an elder at Antioch, until he became an apostle when he was sent out. (Acts 13:1-2).

Prophets are Elders

Some elders are prophets. Judas and elders were elders in the church in Jerusalem, they were also prophets.

Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers. Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers (Acts 15:22,32).
One of the elders who prayed for Timothy was quite likely a prophet.
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you (1 Tim 4:14).
There were prophets among the elders of the church in Antioch.
In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. (Acts 13:1)
Pastor-teachers are Elders

Most elders will be pastors-teachers. There were teachers among the elders at Antioch. Paul referred to elders who work at teaching.
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching (1 Tim 5:17).
He also said that elders must be able to teach.
Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach (1 Tim 3:2).
Peter described elders who are also pastors (shepherds).
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers. (1 Pet 1:1,2).
Paul challenged the elders at Ephesus to shepherd the church of God.
From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church….. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. Acts 20:17,28
Evangelists are Elders

Some elders are evangelists. Paul spoke about elders who specialise in preaching.
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching (1 Tim 5:17).
Elders in the Church

The ascension ministries are different roles that elders can take. Each church in the New Testament was led by a team of elders (Acts 14:23).

Friday, January 07, 2011

Ascension Gifts (6) - Local Leaders

A common teaching is that the ascension ministries are travelling consultants.

However the tasks described in the previous posts are basic stuff like building relationships and helping new Christians to grow. That is why they had to be of good character and proved themselves in running their households. Surely, these tasks have to be done by local leadership.

A travelling consultant cannot be effective in helping Christians grow in the Lord. City-wide leaders cannot teach difficult people to work together. A visiting prophet cannot teach people to get their lives in order. Only an elder with a close relationship can do these tasks. Equipping the saints for service must be done by elders who are local.

The problem is that many Christian leaders have gone into a regional or itinerant ministry and need a biblical justification for it. Rather than taking the plain meaning of Paul's letter, the word is twisted to fit their ministry. They look at their ministries, and assume that Ephesians 4 describes it, but if they read the passage carefully, they would see that it does not describe their ministry. A justification for non-local ministry just does not exist in Ephesians 4.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Ascension Gifts (5) - Basic Tasks

The most obvious way to understand the role of the ascension ministries is to read what the scriptures say they do. Their role, which is fully described in the following verses, is:

to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ (Eph 4:12-15).
The tasks described in this passage are:
  • Equipping the saints for service
  • Building up the body of Christ
  • Establishing unity
  • Imparting knowledge of Jesus
  • Helping Christians to become mature
  • Binding the body together.
This is all grass roots stuff that more mature Christians (elders) would be expected to do. They are not special tasks that need high-powered regional leaders or itinerant ministries.

There is nothing special about these tasks. They are all things that elders normally do. This explains the place of the ministries described in Eph 4:11. They are nothing more than a set of different roles that elders can take.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Ascension Gifts (4) - Not Spiritual Gifts

The word used for gift in Ephesians 4 (doma) is not the same as the spiritual gifts (charismata) used in 1 Cor 12. If these gifts Ephesians gifts are not something given by the Spirit, they must be something that we already have. This suggests that the the gifts are personality traits with which we are born. Some people are born seeing things in black and white (prophetic). Some people are born with this urge to push the boundaries and break new ground (apostlic). You have to be born with a love for people and a compassionate heart to be an effective pastor. Some people are just born with the gift of relating to new people in all situations (evangelist).

Life experience and the work of the Spirit may extenuate these giftings, but it is hard to see how this can happen, if the gifting is not already there. These personality types have to be anointed by the Spirit and shaped to manifest his fruit, but it is hard to move in one of these roles, if you do not have the appropriate personality.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Ascension Gifts (3) - Gifts not Offices

In Ephesians 4, Paul is talking about gifts, so he does not call them ministries. A gift is not a role. It is something that someone in a role can use.

Shepherding is just one of the tasks that some elders will be gifted to do. Silas was an elder and a prophet, so propheting is also a task that some elders do. In 1 Tim 5:17 Paul refers to elders who work at preaching (evangelists).

Some elders are gifted to be apostles. For example, John is referred to as an elder and an apostle. We have caused problems with apostle by translating the Greek word as “sent” when it is a verb, and transliterating it as “apostle” when it is a noun. If we translated consistently, we would get a different picture, as the word is used all over the place. The seventy-two in Luke 10:1 were apostled. Two men were apostled to get a donkey for Jesus to ride on. Correct translation would bring the word apostle down to earth.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Ascension Gifts (2) - Gifts for Everyone

A key point of Eph 4 is that while there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one of nearly everything else. The one thing that is not on this list is church leaders. There is not one church leader. A church needs more than one leader, because one person does not have all the gifts that are needed to be Jesus.

If we forget about modern practice, and start from scratch in looking at Eph 4:11 there is no reason to think they are some higher office. Paul is very clear that he is talking about gifts.

To each one of us, grace (charis) has been given (didomi), according to the measure (metron) of Christ’s gift (dorea) (Eph 4:7).
The gifts are for everyone.
To each one of us...
For all men, not an elite/ not leadership.
He gave (didomi) gifts (domata) to men (Eph 4:8).
The gifts in verse 7,8 and verse 11 must be the same.
He gave (didomi) ) some to be.. (Eph 4:11).
Gifts, given for everyone! What are these gifts? Paul say that grace was given to each of us as measured by Christ's gift, and then quotes a verse saying He gave gifts to (all) men. Surely, the gifts given to each of us must be the gifts described in verse 11. If they are not, we cannot call them ascension gifts. Therefore, these gifts cannot be limited to a few people; they must be diffused widely.

The "men .... de" construction used in v.11 suggests that the list is exhaustive, ie some to be this, some to be something else and the rest to be that. This suggests that everyone should have one of these gifts.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Ascension Gifts (1)

We will never understand the gifts listed in Ephesians 4, if we start with our existing church structures. The common church hierarchy is pastor-elder-people. If the pastor is placed above the elders then the other gifts have to be put up there too. People often want to put the apostle above the pastor, so we end up with a new hierarchy: apostle (pseudo-bishop)-pastor-elders-people. The problem is that no place is left for the evangelists and prophets.

The starting point is wrong. The modern pastor-leader role just does not fit with Eph 4, because it does not exist in the New Testament. Apart from real sheep shepherds and Jesus the Chief shepherd, the Greek word shepherd is only used as a noun once in the New Testament. That is in Eph 4:11, and there it is used to describe a gift, not an office.

The word pastor is used as a verb in Acts 20:17,28 and 1 Pet 5:1,2. In both these cases, elders are told to shepherd (verb) the flock that is in their care. We do not have a verb for shepherd in English, so it is usually translated with the verb “to be” plus the noun shepherd/pastor. This translation is misleading, because it makes the role sound like an office. “Tend” or “look after” would be a better translation. These two passages both say that shepherding is something that elders should do. The use of a verb rather than a noun suggests that Peter and Paul are telling elders what to do, rather than giving them a name. Therefore, pastor is not a higher-level ministry, but a responsibility given to elders. This can be hard to accept, but it is the New Testament teaching.

Shepherds watch over their sheep, so tending includes watching. Therefore, it is interesting that these two passages also give elders a role in exercising “oversight” (watching over). Titus 1:6,7; Phil 1:1 and 1 Tim 3:1,2 also imply that overseer is another title that was used for elders. We confuse the situation by transliterating the Greek word “episkopos” as bishop. Actually it is just a word meaning “watch over”, which is a task that elders are commanded to do by Peter and Paul.

We will never understand Eph 4, if we try to make the ascension ministries too big. They become a special ministry, with a special anointing, that do special work. This is dangerously elitist and unfortunately many people who take these titles are now being put in a special place above the rest of the body. Peter was quite happy to call himself an elder. We need to bring these gifts down to earth. When I look at what these ministries do in Eph 4:12-16 it pretty ordinary stuff, building relationships and helping people grow. There is no hierarchy above elders in the New Testament. This is why Paul only ever appointed elders.