Friday, November 15, 2019

Winning over the Invaders

I have just been reading a book by Rodney Stark called the Triumph of Christianity.

I was especially interested in the period after the collapse of Rome, often referred to as the Dark Ages. During this season, the part of Europe that had been controlled by the Roman Empire was successively invaded by so-called barbarian peoples from the East. Over several centuries, Europe was conquered by the Goths, Visigoths, Vandals, Huns, Franks, Saxons, Vikings, Burgundians and many other groups.

The amazing thing is that most of these groups were won by the gospel and eventually became Christians. Sometimes, it was just there leaders who converted. And sometimes they held heretical ideas, such as Arianism. However, despite the weakness of the church after the collapse of the Roman Empire, the invading peoples chose to become Christian. This confirms the glory of the gospel and power of the Holy Spirit.

Europe is still being invaded by new people groups. However, the modern church does not have the confidence to win them over. They are afraid that they will be defeated by invading cultures and religions. This suggests that the church has lost faith in the power of the gospel.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Marrying Unbelievers

I have just been reading a book by Rodney Stark called the Triumph of Christianity. The book explains the growth of the church throughout history.

Something that surprised me is that Stark says that the early church was far more tolerant of mixed marriages than is the modern church. On the basis of statistical analysis of graves, he says that in the early church, there were far more women than men. The result was that many women had to remain single, which made life impossible in the ancient world, or marry men who were not Christians.

Stark says that the church leaders encouraged mixed marriage, because the husband would provide for their wife. They believed that the husband would come to faith, and even if they did not, they and their children would be saved anyway. He says that large numbers of men came to faith when they were influenced by a Christian wife.

The early church had faith that the believer would influence the unbeliever, whereas the modern church assumes that the unbeliever will influence the believer. We seem to have this the wrong way around.

Encouraging mixed marriages seems to be consistent with the scriptures, which urged young women to get married, except in times of tribulation. Paul said that an unbelieving spouse might come to faith through the witness to the love of Jesus of their spouse (1 Cor 7:16). We have not given sufficient  weight to this promise .

The passage promises that an unbelieving spouse will be saved through the faith of their believing spouse.

For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy (1 Cor 7:14).
This is another good promise.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Moses and the Midianites

God’s treatment of Midian in Numbers 25 seems harsh, but we need to understand that a serious spiritual battle was going on. If the spiritual powers of evil had been able to win this one, God’s plans for Israel would have been seriously set back. The background information relevant to this issue can be found in Old Testament Violence and God and War. My book called Kingdom Authority is important too.

The Passover and the crossing of the Red Sea was an not just a military victory, it was an important spiritual victory. The Egyptians chased the Israelites out of their land. Spiritual powers were not interested in slaves, so they had ignored the Israelites. So when they were shut out of the land, they were mostly evil-spirit free. God wanted them to stay that way.

The attacks by Sihon of the Amorites and Og of Bashan were military attacks. With the Lord’s help, the people were able to defend themselves and defeat the attackers.

Numbers 22-25 describes a much more serious battle. The Midianites with support of the Moabites launched a spiritual attack against the children of Israel. They first bought in a prophet called Balaam and paid him to put a curse on the Israelites. However, Balaam was slightly honest, and open to the Lord’s voice. When the Lord told him to bless Israel and not to curse them he did as he was told. When Balaam had completed his last oracle/prophecy, it seemed like the Lord has achieved a mighty victory over the spiritual powers of evil that controlled Midian (Num 23-24).

Unfortunately, these spiritual powers had another trick up their sleeve (Num 25). They sent attractive Moabite and Midianite women to seduce the Israelite men. One of the women was a daughter of one of the leading men of the Midianites (Num 25:15)Then once they had engaged in sexual immorality, they persuaded them to join in the worship of Baal of Peor, an evil spiritual power. This incident was not just an orgy that got out of control. It was an intense spiritual attack. When they committed adultery and worshipped Baal of Peor, they gave the Cosmos Dominator that controlled this false god and the spirits that worked with him permission to enter their lives and control them. This would have been a disaster, because Israel would have gone from being relatively evil-spirit free to being controlled by powerful spirits.

Because Jesus had not yet died on the cross, Moses did not have the ability to cast these demonic powers out. So God had to do the only thing that he could do to defeat the spiritual powers. He told Moses to kill the leaders of the people who had committed adultery and expose them in daylight. Once these men had died, the evil spirit that had entered them left and went back to where they had come from. The people of Israel stayed away from them to keep spiritually false.

The spiritual powers of evil over-reacted and attacked the rest of the people who had sinned with a pestilence/plague. Once these 24000 had died, these spirits had to leave them, because the rest of the people had chosen to stay loyal to God, so they could not enter their lives.

God told the Israelites to treat the Midianites harshly. This is not the way he likes working, but he had to deal with a situation where his plans were under threat due to an intense spiritual attack. He said to Moses,

Harass the Midianites, and attack them; for they harassed you with their tricks by which they seduced you in the matter of Peor and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a leader of Midian (Num 25:17-18).
Moses was not just defending the people of Israel against a military attack. He was dealing with a clever spiritual attack, with very few spiritual weapons, because he was operating prior to cross when the spiritual powers of evil had not yet been defeated. His people were being spiritually harassed. They only way that he could deal with this was to use physical force against the leaders who had made the people vulnerable to this attack.

God then told Moses to engage in war against the Midianites (Num 31:1-2). They would be living close to the Israelites and would continue to be a spiritual threat to the Israelites. The last thing did before he died was to organise a battle against the Midianites. They killed the kings of Midian and the women who had tried to seduce them into the ways of evil.

After the battle, the men who had fought had to cleanse themselves to protect themselves from picking up evil spirits (Num 31:19-24). Eleazer, the priest, told them what to do. Any soldier who killed anyone, or had touched anyone who was killed had to remain outside the camp for a week. On the third and the seventh day, they had to purify themselves and their clothing. They did this to ensure that they did not carry any evil spirits back into the camp.

Any gold, silver, bronze, iron tin and lead that they had captured had to be passed through a fire. This burning purified the metal and ensured that evil spirits did not come into the camp on the metal that had been used to make idols.

This battle was one of the few which was not started in response to a physical attack. However, it was a defensive battle. It was fought to overcome a serious spiritual attack that put God’s purposes for Israel at risk. Harsh tough action was needed because the threat was serious, and the consequences of losing were terrible.

Since the cross, we have powerful weapons for dealing with the spiritual powers of evil. So we no longer need to engage in this kind of war. Christians who use war for spiritual purposes have failed to understand the cross. We now use spiritual weapons for resisting spiritual attacks.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Intercession

Intercession can be hard, but it is never a waste of time. Praying opens the way for the Lord to do things that he could not do if he was not given permission by someone with authority in a situation (See Keys to Effective Prayer).

Unfortunately, with intercession, there is no guarantee of success. God has made people free, so he cannot get them to act if they choose not to. He cannot make people do things that the intercessors are praying. All he can do is speak to their hearts by the Holy Spirit, but if they refuse to act on the voice of the Spirit, there is nothing that God can do. He can make asses speak and move, but he cannot make humans do what they do not want to do, because he has made them free.

The frustration that intercessors often feel is the same frustration that the Lord feels. He wants his people to be moving on in the full power of the Spirit, but that can only happen, if they do things his way. He can speak, over and over again, but he is often ignored. This is even more frustrating for him, than it is for his intercessors.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Preterism and Futurism

I am not a futurist or a preterist. I do not like these labels, and they do not fit me. I find that people put them on you so they can ignore what you are saying.

The problem with both the futurist and the preterist approaches is that they apply a blanket rule to all prophetic scriptures, when clearly some have been fulfilled, and others have not. Rather than applying a single rule, we need to examine each passage in its context.

The preterists throw the baby out with the bathwater. The futurist loses sight of the baby, because they are obsessed with the dirty bathwater.

Dispensationalism is another flawed method for interpreting prophetic scriptures that produces incorrect readings.

The following scriptures have been fulfilled.
  • Is 53:1-12 – Jesus death and resurrection
  • Dan 7:9 – Jesus ascension
  • Matt 24:1-35 – Destruction of Jerusalem
  • Dan 9:20-27 – Jesus’ ministry and the collapse of Jerusalem
  • Rev 12 – Birth of Jesus and Jewish rejection of the gospel
The following are a few prophetic scriptures that have not been fulfilled, so we can look for their fulfilment in the future.
  • Is 9:7 – Jesus government extends into the entire world.
  • Is 2:3-4 – The nations submit to God’s law.
  • Is 65:17-25 Lion lies down with the Lamb
  • Ezek 37:1-12 – Dry bones come to life.
  • Ezek 38,39 – Battle for Jerusalem.
  • Dan 7:19–25 – Terrible Beast
  • Dan 7:26-27 Kingdoms of the world surrender to the people of God.
  • Matt 24:36-51 – Jesus return
  • Rom 11:12,25-29 – Fulness of the Jews
Readers can quibble about my reading of some of them, but both a preterist and a futurist approach would get half of these scriptures wrong. The only difference is which set they get wrong.

Pushing all the prophetic scriptures back to the first century is foolish. On the other hand, pushing them all into the future is equally unwise. If Peter described an event as happening before his eyes (Acts 2:16-17) it would be unwise claim it will happen in the future. If Jesus says an event will be experienced by the generation listening to him (Matt 24:34), we should be careful about twisting his words to shift them into the future.

A common-sense approach allows the scriptures to speak as they were written. Some will be fulfilled already, and others await fulfilment in the future. Context and comparison will explain when they apply.