Monday, August 30, 2010

Nations and Covenants

A modern nation state cannot make a covenant with God, because there is no one who can make a binding commitment to him on behalf of all the people. A dictator can bind himself, but he cannot bind the people he controls. A democratically elected leader cannot speak for everyone in the nation, because a substantial part of the population will have voted for a different candidate. The elected leader can only bind those who have submitted to them, so they do not have authority to bind everyone in a covenant.

People living within a nation state can make a covenant with God and be born again into the Kingdom of god. However, they can only bind themselves and their children. They cannot bind the rest of the people living within their nation.

When Israel made a covenant with God, it was not a nation state. It consisted of a twelve tribes made up of many families and sub-tribes. The heads of the families and tribes had authority to agree to covenant with God on behalf of their families and tribes. Unfortunately the covenant they made is now obsolete.

An upgrade to a far better covenant is now available, but in the interim Israel has become a nation state and the tribal and family groupings that made the original covenant have disappeared, so they cannot take up the upgrade. The only way to obtain the upgrade is through repentance and faith.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nations and the Kingdom

Nations have no place in the Kingdom of God. They create loyalties that are false. They divide groups of people apart on false grounds.

Actually the entire concept of a nation is vague and artificial. Benedict Anderson has explained that a nation is an imagined community. Any community that is bigger than a tribe or a village has to be imagined, because its members do not know one each other. It is hard to belong to a group that you do not know (Imagined Communities).

Nations are often assumed to have a common racial origin or language. That is never totally true as most nations are a mixture of races and many have more than one language.

The other common fallacy is that a nation is defined by a common culture, but that is not true either. Most nations consist of various cultures. In a political system, one culture usually gains dominance.

Nations are is a modern invention. Up until the eighteenth century, most people did not see themselves as part of a nation. Their strongest connection was with their immediate family. They may have felt a weaker link to a broader tribal group or town. They did not see themselves as part of a nation.

Nations are artificial entities created for political purposes. Membership of a nation is actually defined by submission to political powers. The modern nation state needs this loyalty to survive. Without nationalism, modern nation states would not survive.

Our loyalty is to the Kingdom of God, not to a nation, or race.
As the Kingdom of God emerges, the barriers between nations will become irrelevant. The only division will be between those who are in the Kingdom and those who are not.

Friday, August 27, 2010

God's Nation (2)

In the teaching I referred to yesterday, Bill Hamon said that the founders and forefathers of America made a covenant with God. This is a dodgy claim. The US constitution was not a covenant with God, it is a covenant between men, in which the people said to their political leaders, “We will surrender power to you and serve you, if you will protect us and provide us with the good life”. This is not a covenant with God, but an alternative covenant designed to allow men to live without God. The subsequent history in which God has been squeezed out of American life confirms this to be true.

Bill Hamon said that “the thing” that is coming will "open the eyes of America to see how close they are to losing their freedom". I am not sure if any thing can open the eyes of Americans in this way, because although they do not realise it, they have been freely giving away their freedom for many years. In his book Crisis and Leviathan, Robert Higgs shows how every economic or military crisis in the last two hundred years has led to an increase in state power and an accompanying decline in freedom. Americans have consistently given up their freedom in return for being rescued and protected by the state.

I suspect that another disaster on the scale of 9/11 would simply cause the American people to cry to out the politicians and powers pleading to be rescued. They will gladly hand over further freedoms in return for promises of peace and security. This is perfectly consistent with their covenant made in the US Constitution.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

God's Nation

I recently listened several times to a prophetic word spoken by Dr Bill Hamon at an International Prayer Gathering on 26 July 2010. It raised some interesting issues.

Dr Hamon says that God is soon going to “allow a thing to happen” in America that is “greater than 9/11”. He does not say what the thing is. Maybe he does not know, but “a thing” seems to be quite different from John Paul Jackson’s word about a perfect storm, in which a whole series of traumatic events will hit America one after the other. I am not sure what to make of that difference. I suppose that people will assume that the former is the beginning of the latter.

In his supporting comments, Dr Hamon said that “God raised the American nation up for a purpose”. This is not true. In the New Testament age, God does not work through nations. He works through his Holy Spirit dwelling in groups of Christians who love one another. God sets the times for the rising and falling of nations (Acts 17:26) and he uses them to bring about judgments, but nations are not his vehicle for bringing salvation to the world. Since Jesus became the saviour of the world, God works through his body on earth.

Dr Hamon also said that “God is jealous for his nation, that he will arise like a man of war and fight for his church and his nation, like did for his nation Israel. This is not true. God no longer has nations, because he has the body of Jesus living on earth. The United States is not God’s nation. God is jealous for his church and this kingdom, but he is not jealous for a nation.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Contact Sport

I do not understand contact sports like rugby, rugby league or American football. Why would adult men want to throw themselves at each other to physically to prevent a ball from being taken to the other end of a field? Why would a sensible person accept battering, bruising and bleeding, or risk a broken limb to affect the result of a game. A game in which the winner is the one demonstrating the most intense use of force seems quite odd.

What are the spiritual affects of all this controlled violence? I suspect that rugby and American football are a refuge for warring and violent spirits during times of peace. They need a place to hide when the nations are not at war. I cannot think of a better place.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Discerning the Enemy

Our enemy is not flesh and blood, but principalities and powers in the spiritual realm.

Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12).
This is an amazing statement. Most Christians have not grasped the import of these words.

Our enemy is spiritual. If someone is flesh and blood, they are not our enemy. They are on the same side as us.

Some people at Nazareth tried to kill Jesus, but they were not his enemy.
All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way (Luke 4:28-30).
Jesus did not fear them, because he knew the time for his death had not yet come. He did not hate them, because they were not his enemy, just lost flesh and blood needing a saviour.

Although Pontius Pilate had the power to kill him, Jesus did not see him as an enemy. His followers would have fought for Jesus, if he had called them to battle, but he was not interested in fighting against Pilate, because he was not the enemy. Even though he would eventually order his death, Pilate was on the same side as Jesus, because he was he was flesh and blood too. Jesus knew that Pilate could not kill him, unless God allowed it, so he did not fear Pilate. Jesus understood that Pilate was just another human, being used by the real enemy.

The people of Iran are flesh and blood. They are not our enemy. President Ahmadinejad is not the enemy. He is actually on the same side as us. He is also struggling against the principalities and powers. He is not doing very well, because he does not understand Jesus victory on the cross. He is a prisoner of war held by the enemy that we are fighting. He flesh and blood, so he is not the enemy.

Our enemy is not flesh and blood. We cannot fight against them with physical weapons. Assault rifles and machine guns are useless against our enemy, because they are spiritual.

If someone was to drop a bomb on Iran and killed President Ahmadinejad and his mates, the status of the battle would not change. The Prince of Persia would not be touched. He would be just as strong as ever, and might even be strengthened.

If we do not understand who is our true enemy, we can end up fighting the wrong battles.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Teaching Ministry?

I always assume that Eph 4 describes a fourfold ministry, whereas most teachers refer to five fold ministries. The extra one is the ministry of the “teacher”. My view is that the ministry of the teacher does not exist in the New Testament.

Ephesians 4:11 is fairly 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 the teacher to be a distinct ministry, 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.

Some Christians make the case for Teachers, by referring to a person like Derek Prince. I have learnt a lot from Derek Prince. God maybe raised him up for his time, because the church had lost so much truth. However, this does not mean that the Bible has a teaching ministry.

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.

I have done a lot of teaching over the years, but I am very realistic about the impact. I am always told that it is good teaching. However, it has rarely changed lives. In those times when my teaching did produce a change, it is because it was prophetic to the person listening.

A ministry that teaches and pastors (in the same way as Jesus discipled the twelve) combines truth with love, so it builds up. That is the biblical ideal.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Suffering Releases the Holy Spirit (2)

The kingdom of God cannot be established by warfare, because when war starts, the Holy Spirit withdraws and the principalities and powers move in. This is why war invariably makes the situation worse, even if the cause appears to be good. Evil wins, because the Holy Spirit has to withdraw.

In the struggle between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Darkness, the Holy Spirit will always be the winner. The Kingdom of God is advanced, whenever he has freedom to move.

Christians do not fully understand the role of the Spirit. We have this assumption that if we do not resist evil with force, we will be overcome by evil. If the government does not imprison, violent offenders they will destroy us. If the government does not defend our country, we might be invaded and forced to give up our faith. If we do not use force against those who wish to harm us, we might be destroyed.

When looking at the physical level, these statements appear to be true. Violent people often harm good people. Evil nations sometimes invade peaceful nations. These statements come from seeing only half the picture. When the spiritual dimension is taken into account the shape of the struggle is different. First of all, Christians have eternal life, so they cannot be destroyed by evil. More importantly, what happens in the spiritual dimension determines victory. When Christians use force and political power, the Holy Spirit is constrained. When Christians choose love, compassion, service and the power of the Holy Spirit is released.

Giving him freedom to act is the key to the victory of the Kingdom. Anything that restrains the Holy Spirit holds back the growth of the kingdom of God. Using force to protect ourselves or to protect our nations, may make sense at the physical level, but it hinders the coming of the Kingdom of God. Before the Kingdom can be established, God will have to shake our faith in human power, and teach us to trust the Holy Spirit. Given the immensity of his power, any other course of action is unwise.

Paul made a similar point to the Roman Christians. He challenged them to bless those who persecute them. They must not repay evil with evil, but overcome evil with good. Paul explains the reason why Christians must not retaliate.

Beloved, do not retaliate for yourselves, but rather leave room for the wrath of God (Rom 12:19).
If we retaliate against those who harm us, we leave no room for God. This is one reason the Kingdom has been slow to come. Whenever Christians have used political force to resist evil, they have squeezed God out. The Holy Spirit has been hamstrung by our tendency to retaliate against evil.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Suffering Releases the Holy Spirit (1)

The Kingdom of God is brought in by service and suffering. We really need to get this fact. The reason is that the Holy Spirit loves service. When Christians serve others, he is there in the midst of them, touching the hearts of those they are serving. The Holy Spirit loves really goes to work when Christian suffer while they are serving. In a passage on suffering, Peter gives this promise.

If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you (1 Peter 4:14).
Peter is referring back to the Shekiniah Glory of God. When we suffer in Jesus, name the Holy Spirit rests on us, not just to make us glow, but he flows out to touch those who are persecuting us. When Christians demonstrate agape love towards those who intend to harm them, the Holy Spirit authority has freedom to go to work in their lives. When people watch a Christian suffering, they open up to the Holy Spirit. He is sometimes able to convict them of sin and reveal Jesus to them.

A good example is the centurion who crucified Jesus.
When the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous man!” (Luke 23:47).
This centurion would have crucified hundreds of people doing his career. He was a battle-hardened killing machine. Yet after watching Jesus die, this man glorified God and declared that Jesus was a righteous man.

When Christians use political power or coercion, the opposite happens. The Holy Spirit flees. When we resist force with force, he scampers. This creates a vacuum that allows evil in. When Christians use force, anger and hatred always follow. If the spirits of anger and hatred that are drawn to the situation cannot get influence with the Christians, they will have a field day with the people they are resisting.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jesus Returns for the Final Judgement

Jesus will not return to establish a kingdom, but for the final judgment.

The Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone (Jude 14,15).
When Jesus returns, the last judgment will has arrived.
Various scriptures about the second coming speak of final judgment and Christians getting their reward.
For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you (1 Thes 2:19)?
May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones (1 Thes 3:13).
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him (2 Thes 2:1).
These verses all speak about Jesus rewarding his people at the final judgement.

Paul gave one of the clearest descriptions of the last day and the final judgement in this letter to the Christians at Thessalonica.
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed (2 Thes 2:6-10).
Paul lists a number of things that will happen.
  • Jesus will be revealed from heaven with his powerful angels.
  • The last judgement will come.
  • Those who have suffered will receive their reward.
  • Those rejecting the gospel will be shut out from the presence of God.
  • Jesus will be glorified.
  • His people will marvel at his glory.
Jesus is appearing (parousia) to be honoured by those who are part of his kingdom. Jesus return on the last day brings in the final judgement. Christians hoping that Jesus will return to establish the kingdom he promised will be disappointed.

A corporate mental stronghold is a false idea that takes hold in a culture so that it is wisely accepted. The belief that Jesus will build the Kingdom of God when he returns is a corporate mental stronghold that has crippled the Church.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Jesus does not Return to Establish Kingdom

When Jesus ascended into heaven he received the place in all creation.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name (Phil 2:9).
God 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 1:19-20).
The scriptures teach that he must stay there until all his enemies are defeated.
He sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool (Heb 10:12,13).
He does not return to defeat his enemies. He waits in heaven until the church and the Holy Spirit have defeated them. The Bible promises that in a short time we will crush Satan under our feet (Rom 16:20). Jesus returns when his enemies are defeated to bring in the end of the age.

Jesus return does not establish the kingdom. He actually hands over to the Father a Kingdom that has already been established by his follows.
Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet (1 Cor 15:24-25).
Jesus hands over the kingdom to God the Father. He reigns in heaven until all his enemies are defeated. When he returns, Jesus will receive the kingdom from the church, and hand it back to our Father.

Jesus warned his followers that the kingdom would come slowly, like yeast permeates a loaf of bread. It does not come in one dramatic manifestation.
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).
Jesus was warning his disciples not to expect the Kingdom to come instantly in a visible way. It comes gradually as the Spirit works in the hearts of men.

This doctrine that Jesus will return to establish the Kingdom is Satan’s best lie. He has used this lie to successfully cripple the church, by fooling us into believing that the church will not come during this season. He has fooled us into believing that we can sit back and wait, because Jesus will come and so it for us. Unfortunately, that is a false hope.

The second coming of Jesus does not destroy forces of evil. Seeing Jesus will not be enough. Many people saw Jesus when he lived on earth, but continued to reject him. Those who teach a "millennium" after the second coming often imply that Jesus will establish the Kingdom by force. It is hard to imagine how Jesus would do this.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Church is not a Meeting

I really do not care too much where a church meets. A house is okay, but under a tree is just as good, provided it is not raining. The place of meeting is actually irrelevant. We have to get beyond seeing the church as a meeting. A church that is just a meeting of people once or twice a week has missed the point.

A church is a group of people led by elders who have strong relationships with each other and who have balanced ministries. Each member of the church should have strong relationships with at least one of the elders and with several other church members.

A church consists of people in relationship with each other, serving God in the world together. This puts a constraint on the number of people that can belong to a church. Once a group gets beyond a certain size relationships become shallow and discipleship gets replaced by programmes. The solution is to send out a team of apostles to establish a new church consisting of a new a new group of people in relationship with each other.

If people have strong relationships with each other, they will want to meet together frequently. Relationships will lead to meetings. However, there is no guarantee that meetings will develop relationships.

I do not care where people are meeting, providing the believers are doing the “one another stuff”, people are being discipled to grow to maturity and elders are building strong relationships among the people.

Large meetings encourage passivity and dependence. The leaders of the meeting tend to become performers. They cannot relate to all the people who attend. The people who attend get into the habit of watching the leaders do “their stuff”, so they do not learn to do “the stuff” themselves. People do not learn to do the stuff, by watching the leaders perform. They learn by going with someone who knows how to do “the stuff” and helping them. When they have helped for a while, they have a go on their own stuff. That is how Jesus taught his disciples. Large meetings cannot achieve the results that Jesus method achieved.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tribulation (5) - to the Kingdom

Many Christians believe that the Kingdom of God will be established when Jesus returns with violent power to destroy all those who oppose it. This view is a distortion of the gospel. Jesus was adamant that his kingdom will not be established by force and coercion.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).
Evil will not be overcome by greater evil. It must be overcome by good.

The Kingdom of God will be established by the Holy Spirit working through the church. When the church follows Jesus example and takes up the cross, the power of the Holy Spirit is released. When Christians willingly suffer in the face of evil, the principalities and powers are defeated.

One reason that the Kingdom of God has taken so long to be established is that Christians often take the wrong response to evil. We try to overcome evil with military force and political power. This sometimes achieves a temporary victory, but unfortunately it cramps up the Holy Spirit and in the long term the Kingdom of God is hindered. The Holy Spirit cannot operate at his full potential in a church that grasps at political and secular power.

The Kingdom of God will be established when his church is willing to follow Jesus all the way and take up the cross in the face of evil. Suffering and tribulation will bring in the Kingdom of God. John understood that suffering and endurance and the kingdom go together.
Your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus (Rev 1:9).
Paul suffered a great deal, but he understood that suffering would advance the Kingdom.
All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering (2 Thes 1:5).
Join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God (2 Tim 1:7-9).
We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom 5:3-4).
Peter understood that suffering defeats the power of the enemy.
Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter5:8-10).
Their suffering will lead to Gods victory.

John explained that Jesus overcame evil by dying on the cross. The Holy Spirit will bring in the kingdom through a church achieves victory that follows Jesus example.
They overcame him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
Therefore rejoice, you heavens
and you who dwell in them! (Rev 12:11-12).
This seems like a paradox, but the people of the Lamb experience victory, when they are willing to die for their faith, and do not shrink from death. The fullness of the Holy Spirit dwells in such a church.

There is a “great tribulation” (Rev 7:14). This is not a great tribulation because it is the worst suffering and persecution ever. It is the great tribulation, because this suffering in the face of persecution leads to the collapse of evil empires and the emergence of the Kingdom of God. Any suffering and tribulation that advances the kingdom of God is a great tribulation, because it has a great result.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tribulation (4) - Power to the Enemy

The most dangerous aspect of the Tribulation doctrine is that it gives a place to the Devil that he does not deserve.

  1. The devil’s power and authority was destroyed by the cross. God is not going to allow him back to a place of supremacy on earth again.

  2. God gave authority over the earth to mankind. He keeps his word, no matter how unfaithful we are. He will never take that authority off us and give it to the devil.

  3. God loves the physical world and made it beautiful. Having seen photos of the earth from space, we now know just how true that is. When he created it, he saw that it was exceeding good (Gen 1:31). He is not going to give his creation over to the enemy and let him to trash his pride and joy. Those who think that God would allow his world to be turned into chaos do not understand how much God loves it.

  4. The tribulation idea comes out of a false philosophy that believes that the spiritual is good and the physical is bad. Only someone who hates the physical world could come up with the idea of handing over it over to evil for trashing. The devil is jealous of Jesus, so he hates God’s world that Jesus dreamed up, so I can understand how he would come up with plan where he gets a free hand to mess up God’s good earth. I cannot understand why Christians would welcome his plan, unless they have slipped into hating God’s world too.

God has promised that the whole earth will be filled with his glory. He will not allow the devil to fill the earth with his mess. He has done enough harm already.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tribulation (3) - Time of Distress

The Jews will come to faith during a period of tumult in the Middle East. Wars, famines, plagues and death will occur and the people of the earth will be thrown into fear. The response of the world will be a huge consolidation of political power in a vain attempt to hold back the chaos. Political powers will be given enormous powers in return for a promise to bring back peace, order and prosperity. However, because they are opposing God, they will fail and the situation will deteriorate even more.

The political powers will persecute those who stand against them, so this will be painful for God’s people. Those who stay true to Jesus will be strengthened by this refining process and be made ready for the times that lie ahead. Those who overcome during this time of chaos will be prepared to share in the Kingdom of God as it comes on earth (Rev 2:26,27).

Most of the pressure during this season of distress will actually be directed against the political powers, and they will eventually collapse under the strain. In this season, most of the pain will be felt by human political powers and not the ordinary people. The pressure is God’s plan for removing a key obstacle to the coming of his Kingdom among his people.

This time should not be called “The Tribulation”. The chaos that brings down the political powers and brings in the Jews will be a time of tribulation for many Christians, but this will be no different from the experience of many Christians down through the ages. It will be just one more period of tribulation. Describing it as something unique is misleading, and unfair to Christians from earlier ages who have often suffered terribly for the Lord.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tribulation (2) - Trib Normal

The New Testament teaches that tribulation is a normal part of the Christian life in every age. 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).
Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering (2 Thes 2:4,5).
Tribulation will be a normal experience for all Christians. When we are true to Christ, we will be a threat to the world, and this will always bring opposition. The Greek word “thlipsis”, which is translated as “tribulation, affliction, trouble”, literally means pressure. The English 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.

Suffering is normal for Christians. To be a Christian is to follow Jesus. Anyone who follows in his footsteps and lives the same kind of life is also bound to suffer.
To this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Pet 2:21).
Suffering is not just a vague possibility, but something which Christians should be ready to meet. We should not he surprised when suffering comes upon us.
Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet 4:12-13).
Tribulation is just a sign that believers are doing their job. If there is no tribulation, it is most likely because we have already have compromised with the world.

Christians should not be looking for a "great tribulation", because 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 equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive (Matt 24:20-22).
Jesus said that the greatest tribulation that will ever take place on earth has already occurred. The destruction of Jerusalem was an absolutely terrible event. Anyone who does not believe this should read the account by the Jewish historian Josephus. Jesus promised that a tribulation this terrible will never happen again. Christians who believe in a greater tribulation are denying Jesus promise that this was the worst tribulation that would ever occur.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tribulation (1) - Seven Year

A popular teaching with the end-times teachers is a seven-year tribulation that will soon take place on earth. They claim that Satan will be given a free hand to work evil in the world. The entire earth will be full of the worst possible evil, as the waters cover the sea. These teachers disagree about whether Christians will share in the tribulation. Some say that Christians will escape from the earth in a secret rapture before the tribulation (a lovely idea). Others suggest that Christians will be there to the end, but will be powerless against evil (another lovely idea).

The funny thing is that a seven-year tribulation is not mentioned in either the Old or New Testament. Although this idea is popular, it has no basis in the scriptures. So where did it come from? The one who benefits most from this teaching is the devil. He would love to have a free hand on earth, even if just for a few years, so I presume that this idea comes from him.

I notice that when Christians give more attention to tribulation teaching, they become more fearful. I presume that the devil is quite happy about that too.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Who is the Greatest

The Holy Spirit is greater than the devil, by an immense margin.

The Devil is a fallen angel. He can only intervene on earth in one place at a time. This is severely limiting. The devil has an army of fallen angels, but it is not a united force. They are proud and independent and do not always do his will. The devil is hard pushed to get his work done on earth.

The Holy Spirit is divine. He was powerful enough to create the entire universe in just a moment of time. He is not limited to one place. He can be active throughout the entire earth, because he is not limited by space and time. The Holy Spirit can do greater things than Jesus did, and that it is a hard act to follow (John 14:12). He can convict the world of sin (John 16:8).

A struggle between the Holy Spirit and the devil there is not contest. The enemy is totally outclassed.

Monday, August 09, 2010

God has Plenty of Time

Christians always seem to be in a hurry for the second coming to come. God is generous and gracious wanting many people to come into his kingdom, so he is not in a hurry. Peter reminded us that God is not bound by our sense of urgency.

With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:8,9).
These verses have used as a key to interpret biblical prophecy, but that totally misses the point. The real point is that time is different for God. A thousand years a like a day. That means that the two thousand years that have passed since Jesus was crucified, seem like only two days to God. If only two days have gone by, why would God be keen to wind up his show on earth. In fact the opposite is true. God patient. He is willing to let many thousands of years so that more people can come to repentance and enter his kingdom.

Christians who want Jesus to return soon are out of touch with God’s heart. He did not send his son to die for just a handful of people. He is gracious and generous and wants hundreds of billions of people to come into his kingdom. He will not establish his kingdom, and then immediately put it away like last year's toy. He might enjoy watching his kingdom for thousands of years. God is patient, so he is quite happy to let several thousand more years go by, so he can keep his covenant for a thousand generation.
Here is a woe that should make us worry.
Woe to those who say, "Let God hurry,
let him hasten his work
so we may see it(Is 5:19).
God is not in a hurry. His people should be careful about making him hurry. He has many more promises to fulfil. His people should be as keen to see many billions more people coming into the kingdom. Those who want to rush Jesus coming, do not understand his concept of time.

Ten thousand years is just like a few days to God. He will wait that long to fill his kingdom with billions of people.

God does not need to hurry. From his perspective this show has only been on the road for a couple of days. It makes no sense for him to close it down, because the opening crowds were disappointing.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Thousand Generations

To get a million billion people into his kingdom, life on earth will have to go on for a good many more generations yet. That could easily happen. Here is a well known promise.

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands (Deut 7:9).
He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations (1 Chron 16:15).
He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations (Ps 105:8).
God recorded this promise at least five times in the scriptures. Some numbers in scriptures are used figuratively, but if any number deserves to be taken literally, surely it is the number in this promise. God has promised to keep his covenant for a thousand generations. This suggests that a thousand generations of people will live on earth subsequent to his promise?

A new generation is born on earth about every twenty years. That means that there have been less than 500 generations on earth since the time of Abraham when the promise was first made. That means we have could have another 500 generations to ensure God’s promise is totally fulfilled. That would be just about right to get the full number of people that God wants into the kingdom.

Ten thousand years is a short time for a generous and gracious God.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Gracious and Generous

God is gracious. He is generous with his grace. He wants to billions of people to enjoy his creation and embrace his love.

Up to the present time, a rough guess would be that fifteen billion people have lived on this earth, most of them during the last 100 years. Nearly half of the people who have ever lived are alive now. If you assume a history average of approximately one third of people coming to faith in Jesus, then about five billion people have found their way into eternal life. Would God be happy to call it a day with that number having found salvation? Most Christians seem to thing he would, but I doubt it.

God has created a universe that is so immense that it is difficult for a human mind to conceive the vastness. The new heaven and new earth is likely to be even larger. Five billion people are not enough people to fill the new heaven and the new earth. I can imagine that it would take five hundred billion people to fill this universe, so might take at least a million billions of people to fill the new heavens and earth.

The host of angels is almost too vast to be counted.

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands (Rev 5:11).
“Ten thousand times ten thousand” is an absolutely huge number. But there was a vast uncounted host beyond these, which no one could even count. This is without counting the third of angels that rebelled and joined the enemy side. Man was made a little lower than the angels, so if God wanted such huge number of angels, I am sure that he wants almost as many people in his kingdom.

The Bible promises that the number coming to faith will be too many to be counted.
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands (Rev 7:9).
A billion Christians could be easily counted. Life will have to go continue on earth for many generations, before the full number of those God has called and chosen are born.

A billion is a small number for God. A stingy person might be satisfied with saving a billion people, but God is generous and has far room for many, many more than that.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Secular Capitalism (3)

The New Testament brought an even better solution to the problem of inequality. Acceptance of the gospel of Jesus leads to a great outpouring of giving that can counteract the flow of wealth from the bottom to the top.

Paul explained God’s will.

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality (2 Cor 8:13).
God does want those who have much to get more and those who little to get less. He prefers the opposite; that everyone should have what they need and no one should have more than they need.

Christians should not hand out money and property willy nilly. Deacons have an important role in ensuring that wealth is not wasted. They will direct capital to those who could use it wisely. They will teach poor people how to live carefully and productively.

The major flaw with secular capitalism is the increasing inequality that it inevitably produces. Free-market capitalism needs to be tempered by Generous Christianity for long-term success.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Secular Capitalism (2)

Inequality of income becomes a festering sore the weaken society. Secular societies have come up with two solutions to inequality.

  1. The most popular solution to inequality is progressive taxation. This solution is immoral. There is not moral basis for confiscating the wealth of the rich and giving it to the poor. The other problem with this solution is that progressive taxation destroys many of the incentives that have made free-market capitalism so productive.

  2. The other popular solution is revolution: shoot the rich and let the poor grab what they can. This solution is immoral and destructive. Revolution destroys the productive capacity of a society, so it generally makes everyone worse off.

Secular solutions to inequality have failed. The Bible provides two solutions.

In Old Testament times, the main form of capital was land. The Jubilee laws ensured that land remained reasonably evenly distributed across the entire population. If a family became poor and sold their land to settle debts, the purchaser of the land was required to return it to the original owner in the jubilee year. This mean that the distribution of income generated wealth was distributed evenly again at the beginning of each new generation.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Secular Capitalism (1)

Secular capitalism does not work long term. It has one serious problem that will always tend to undermine it from within.

Free market capitalism has solved the production problem. It allowed human initiative and inventiveness to flourish. The accumulation of capital has massively increased human productivity. Free trade has supported a greater division of labour. These factors have led to massive increases in the wealth of the western world. We have moved from a life of subsistence to a world of prosperity in a couple of centuries.

The flaw with free market capitalism is that wealth tends to be concentrated in the hands of a few.
  1. Efficient entrepreneurs are rewarded with increasing wealth. That is as it should be. Many use the increase in wealth to expand their enterprise.

  2. Wealth flows to those who already have wealth. Those who inherit wealth will find it much easier to increase their wealth than those with none. Wealth begats wealth.

  3. The corrupt, crafty and unscrupulous will often do even better. They will often manipulate and swindle the less misfortunate to defraud them for their own benefit.

  4. When wealthy people collude with political rulers, the flow of wealth to the rich and powerful is really boosted.

  5. Some wealth trickles down to those at the bottom, but the flow up is far greater.

  6. When governments produce economic depressions, the poor usually suffer the most.

Secular capitalism increases the wealth of most people in society, but it also produces huge inequalities.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Parable of the Minas (7) Take Time

The Parable of the Minas was also a warning that the economic restoration brought by the Kingdom of God would take time.

Zacchaeus actions would not stop the poor people from being harshly tax. The fact that Zacchaeus had resigned did not mean that the people would not have to pay tax. That would be wishful thinking, and Jesus reminded them of the harsh reality. If Zacchaeus could not do the job, his collection responsibilities, would be handed over to someone else, like the first servant, who could extract money where it had not been put in. Zacchaeus would be replaced with a chief tax collector who was even more harsh and corrupt. In the short term the situation would get worse.

As long as political powers exist, they will find someone to collect their taxes. As long as they have power, they will look after their cronies. The people would not be freed from their excessive tax burden until hundreds of chief tax collectors had been converted and given away their surplus wealth, instead of handing over to the political powers. Only when no one harsh enough could be found to take on the tax collector role would that happen, causing the entire political system to collapse.

The Zacchaeus incident was a sign that this would happen, but it would take time. The unfairness of secular capitalism and the corruption of politicised capitalism will eventually collapse and the Kingdom of God would come in its place. That would take time, and in the meantime many people would suffer under the harsh treatment of a corrupt political and economic system.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Parable of the Minas (6) Economic Power

The parable exposes a flaw in secular capitalism, especially when in collusion with political power. The people watching were surprised at the king’s treatment of his servant, and especially that he gave the mina to the one with ten.

Master, he has ten minas already (Luke 19:27).
This was a good question. The Kings answer is surprising.
I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away (Luke 19:26).
We must remember that these words were not spoken by God, but by a corrupt king who reaped where he did not sow and took out where he had not put. The king took words that Jesus had spoken in a different context and twisted for his purpose (this shows Jesus skill as a storyteller). Jesus spoke these works earlier in a gospel context after telling the parable of the sower to explain that those who received the gospel would receive greater spiritual insight, while those who rejected the gospel would harden their hearts. The king takes those words, which were true in a spiritual context, and uses them to justify injustice.

In the worldly system, the political powers collude with the economic powers, and sometimes with the religious authorities for mutual benefit. Those who have wealth will gain more and more. Those who have nothing, often lose what they have to misfortune and economic manipulation. This has happened again and again throughout history.

Zacchaeus is a perfect example of the problem exposed by the parable. A tax collector had to pay for the privilege from the aristocratic families who colluded with the Roman authorities in managing the affairs of the region. Because he had much, Zacchaeus could purchase a position that allowed him to gain even greater wealth. His success in extracting taxes would have led to him being promoted to his position of chief tax collector. This was the way the system worked. Those who could pay for privilege gained greater privileges. At the same time, those who had little or nothing, were lost most of what they had. If they refused to pay, or were unable to pay, the soldiers would come in an steal their livestock and destroy their home. Those with nothing would lose even what they had.

This has happened again and again throughout history. Those who have wealth have gained more and more. Those who have nothing, often lose what they have to misfortune and economic or political manipulation.

This is why the biblical teaching about sharing is important. Without that countervailing tendency, secular capitalism results in unfair distributions of income. Those with much can easily gain more. Those with less slip further behind. The trickle up is more effective than the trickle down. Paul explained God’s will.
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality (2 Cor 8:13).
God does want those who have much to get more and those who little to get less. He prefers the opposite; that everyone should have what they need and no one should have more than they need. This is not a justification for state-enforced income redistribution. The Parable of the Minas exposes the dangers of state power.

Zacchaeus also illustrates God’s solution to the problem. It was not democratic socialism. Rather, Zacchaeus repaid everything he had stolen, and gave away half of what he owned. This type of radical give is the proper response to the kingdom. Generous giving will prevent the twisted words of the wicked king being fulfilled. As many Christian follow Zacchaeus’ example, the opposite will be true.
Those who have much will give much.
Those who have nothing will be given more.
I will develop these thoughts next week in a series of posts called secular capitalism.