Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Time of Distress (7) - World

The season that ends the times of the Gentiles is called the Time of Distress. This is the third season since the ministry of Jesus. It will affect different groups of people in different ways.

This season of transition will be painful for the world. Troubles and tribulations will breakout everywhere. The devil will be angry at losing power, so evil will eventually go rampant.

  • Economies will collapse.
  • Global trade will contract.
  • Wealth will disappear as the division of labour shrinks.
  • Wars increase in intensity.
  • Famine and disaster will be widespread.
  • Sickness and disease will be unstoppable.
  • Security structures will fall apart.
  • Concentration of political power
  • Police and defence forces may not be paid, so many will desert their posts.
  • Some military leaders will morph into warlords.
  • Groups of police will morph into armed gangs controlling a patch of territory.
  • Violent gangs of youths may rampage through towns and cities.
  • Fear and dread will be pervasive.
The distress will build slowly. Initially, governments will hold back the worst of these effects, so most people will be confident that the good times will return.

Time of Distress (6) - Four

Four is the number that represents the earth, so these events will reach to the four corners of the earth.

God promises that he will protect his people through this season.

You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you (Ps 91:5-7).
This psalm is a wonderful promise of hope for those who are faithful to the Lord.

A natural connection links the events symbolised by the four horsemen. The first two horsemen open the way for the third and the fourth horsemen. A decline in faith, leads to an increased warfare. The wasting of war tends to produce death and famine. Shortages of food cause sickness and death. We are seeing beginnings of these events, but we have certainly not seen their complete fulfilment. Before the first four seals are fulfilled, trouble and distress will sweep the earth on an unprecedented scale.

The Four Horsemen mark the beginning of the Time of Distress. Their activities release the conditions that allow a huge concentration of political and military powers. The fear and uncertainty brings human poltical power to a climax, as people give their freedom over to human governments in the hope of finding peace in a troubled world. This is has to happen, so faith in human government can be totally broken at the end of the season. For example, the advance of Islam will fail in its attempts to expand westward, but has already led to a big increase in state power and loss of freedom throughout the western world.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Time of Distress (5) - Pale Horse

The Pale Horse represents epidemic disease and death.

I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him (Rev 6:7).
The Greek word is “Thanatos”. This word does mean death, but in the Greek version of the Old Testament (Septuagint) it is used more than thirty times to translate the Hebrew word for “pestilence” (deber), so “pestilence” is probably a better translation in this context. This horseman is a symbol of deadly disease spreading over the earth. John saw widespread sickness and disease killing people over all the earth. During 1348-9 over a third of the population of England succumbed to this disease.

This horseman had power to kill people in four ways.
They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill in sword, famine and plague, and by the beasts of the earth (Rev 6:8).
In Revelation, the beasts from the earth represent human political powers. This suggests that the wars, famines and disease will be caused by the actions of human governments.

This horseman was called Pestilence, and Hades follows him. This suggests that those who have rejected the gospel will be more vulnerable to this pestilence. Zechariah saw the pale horse moving south. This suggests that the impact will be worse in the poorer parts of the world.

Time of Distress (4) - Black Horse

The Black Horse represents a worldwide famine caused by a serious economic collapse.

Before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine” (Rev 6:5,6).
The cause of the famine is not explained, but the results are very clear. The Greek measure used here is a "choinix". It was the daily ration for a soldier in active service. The coin mentioned is a denarius, which was the equivalent of a day’s wages. John saw a famine so severe, that a daily ration of wheat will cost a day’s wages. Barley was a little cheaper as it was considered to be of poorer quality. The situation will be so severe that ordinary people will have to use all they can earn to buy food.

The wealthy will not be affected. Luxury items like oil and wine are not to be damaged. The main shortage will be basic food items. Zechariah saw black horses moving to the north. In the modern world, the northern nations tend to be wealthy, and poorer nations tend to be in the south. John is warning that people in the wealthy nations may experience famine; something they have not known in recent years.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Time of Distress (3) - Red Horse

The Red Horse releases Ethnic Wars throughout the world.

Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword (Rev 6:3-4).
A terrible time of warfare emerges on earth. Peace disappears men begin to slay each other. The world has experienced times of war right through history, but the war described here will be different from anything experienced before. This is signified by the fact the horseman is given a very large sword. Peace will be gone from the earth.

Red is the colour of Esau and his descendants the Edomites. Esau was red when he was born (Gen 25:25). His name comes from a root meaning "to press or to squeeze". Esau was told that he would live by the sword (Gen 27:40; Num 20:18). The word Edom, which is the name given to the nation which he founded, comes from a root word meaning "red". The life of Esau and the experience of Edom is the key to understanding the rider on the fiery red horse. Their history is a story of conflict between two families or tribes squeezed together in the same land. The struggle continued when Edom obstructed Israel on its return from Egypt to the promised land (Num 20).

The rider on the fiery red horse represents an outbreak of inter-tribal warfare throughout the world. Tribes that have lived together in an uneasy peace will go to war with each other. Disputes that have been festering for hundreds of years will come to the surface. The new generation will turn weapons onto their neighbours to settle the old grievances. The tribal groups going to war may often be quite closely related. They will often have intermingled through marriage. This will add to the bitterness of the struggles.

These struggles will be characterised by:
  • bitterness (Gen 27:34)
  • revenge (Gen 27:41)
  • fury (Gen 27:44)
  • betrayal (1 Sam 22)
  • retaliation (Ez 25:12)
  • concealment (Jer 49:10)
  • lack of wisdom (Jer 48:7)
  • rebellion against parents (Gen 28:9)
  • grief (Gen 27:35)
The war will often begin with a guerrilla army fighting against government forces (Gen 25:27). They will be so ruthless that they will inspire great terror (Jer 49:6). These armies will plunder with glee and with malice in their hearts (Ez 36:5), often shedding innocent blood (Joel 3:19). Amos said of Edom:
He pursued his brother with a sword,
stifling all compassion,
because his anger raged continually
and his fury flamed unchecked
(Amos 1:10).
The Red Horse has been at work in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan, Ireland, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan,Pakistan and Libya, to name a few. The revival of Islam feeds these wars in parts of the world, but Christians are not immune. These ethnic disputes will become so common, that the resources of the United Nations will be unable to cope.

These ethnic disputes are not new. The difference is the ferocity and destruction produced by modern weapons. This is the significance of the big sword.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Time of Distress (2) - White Horse

The White Horse is released first.

Before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest (Rev 6:2).
The rider looks like Jesus, because he rides on a white horse, but Jesus is armed with a sword, so this is not him. This horseman represents a false messiah or a false religion making a powerful advance (Ps 46:9).

Several Old Testament nations are described as bowmen. Elam, which was situated in the western part of modern Iran, is described as armed with a bow (Jer 49:34-39, Is 22:6). The Persian army which came from the same area is described as being armed with bows (Jer 50:14,29,42). Ishmael, was an archer (Gen 21:20). He was the father of the Arab nations, so there are bowmen in Arabia (Is 21:13-16).

The people of Libya are also described as bowmen (Isaiah 66:19). In fact the Hebrew word for Libya, "Put", could come from an Egyptian word meaning bowman. In Jeremiah 46:9, men of Lydia are said to be bowmen. Lydia was situated in modern Turkey. Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Turkey are all countries in which the religion of Islam is strong.

Islam claims to be based on the Bible. Mohammed is a false prophet who claimed to be a successor to Jesus, so a bowman on a white horse is a good description of the Islamic religion. The white horse going forth "conquering and to conquer" represents the revival of Islamic fervour and political power that has been sweeping the world since the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1978.

The Islamic revival has touched the entire Moslem world is one of the most powerful movements in the world today. It is very powerful at a grass roots level, and even secular rulers are coming under its influence. Islam is even gaining influence in the west. This ties in with Zechariah, who saw the white horse advancing to the west (Zech 6:6).

Time of Distress (1) - ►The Four Horsemen

The epochal event that marks the beginning of the Time of Distress is the release of the Four Horseman of Revelation 6:1-8. We are now well through the Times of the Gentiles and beginning the Time of Distress. The Four Horsemen are the birth pangs of this new season. They are not signs of the second coming or the rapture. They are the events that cause the Time of Distress.

The vision begins with the opening of a scroll with seven seals. Jesus is the only one who can open the seals. Although these events are unpleasant, they will only come when he is ready. Satan has no authority to bring them to pass. These events are initiated in heaven, so they will bring blessing to God's people.

As each seal is opened, John sees a horseman ride forth. The horses should not be taken literally; as each horseman represents an actor in human history that causes a decisive event. The events follow on from each other, but also overlap each other.

Zechariah 6:1-8 records a parallel vision of four chariots. Zechariah actually saw four chariots coming out from between two mountains. He does not tell us what each one does, but he gives us the direction in which they operate.

John saw four horsemen riding out into the world. I will look at these in the next four posts.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Purpose of the Book of Revelation

The common view is that the book of Revelation describes the events leading up to the second coming. This is a serious mistake. The book covers the whole of New Testament history, but focuses intensely on the middle of the diagram by explaining how the coming of the Kingdom, the judgments of God, tribulation, suffering, the collapse of human government and the calling of the Jews fit together. The main themes are listed in the first chapter of the book.

1. Destruction of Human Political Power
John’s greeting from Jesus to the churches says he is ruler of all kings.

Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead,
and the ruler over the kings of the earth (Rev 1:5).
Jesus is the ruler of the kings of the earth. This means that the kings and political leaders have two choices. If they oppose Jesus, they will be swept away by judgement. If they acknowledge Jesus is Lord, they will have to step down from their role, as a kingdom cannot have two kings.

2. Judgment
Jesus will send judgment on those who oppose him.
Look he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen (Rev 1:7).
The expression “coming on the clouds” is not a description of the second coming, but an Old Testament expression that refers to any manifestation in history of God’s omnipotent power against the world. The Greek word translated “coming” is “erkomai”, the normal word for come. “Parousia”, which is used throughout the New Testament for the second coming of Jesus, is not used in the book of Revelation, as the second coming is not a major theme of the book.

3. Fullness of the Jews
Revelation describes the time when Israel comes to faith in Jesus
Every eye will see him, even those who pierced him (Rev 1:7).
In contrast with many other verses that speak of people seeing Jesus, this one includes “those who pierced him”. As part of a worldwide move of the Holy Spirit, the Jews will be converted to faith in Christ. They will have the eyes of their hearts opened to see Jesus and accept him as their Saviour

4. Trouble and Distress
John himself was going through a time of trouble when he received this vision.
I John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus (Rev 1:9).
John encourages Christians to persevere and endure patiently through trouble.

5. Suffering
Suffering brings in the kingdom.
I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus (Rev 1:9).
The kingdom does not come through Christians gaining political power. Rather, as Christians follow Jesus example and take up the cross of suffering, the political powers will collapse, allowing the Kingdom to emerge.

6. Kingdom of God
The Kingdom of God is the central theme in the book of Revelation.
He has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen (Rev 1:6).
The Old Testament prophesied the Kingdom of God. Jesus said it was near. The book of Revelation explains how the Kingdom of God comes in history.

7. Sovereignty
The sovereignty of Jesus is emphasised throughout Revelation.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty (Rev 1:8).
Jesus has existed from the beginning, and he will be in control at the end. Because he is eternal, he knows all things. He is almighty, so he can do all things. His authority and sovereignty are absolute and total.

The Book of Revelation covers all seven of these themes.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Three to Let Go

To understand God’s plans for history, three passages of scripture that Christians cling to must be taken of the mix, because they have already been fulfilled. Applying them to the future causes confusion.

1. Jesus Big Prophecy (Matt 24:3-35, Mark 13:3-31; Luke 21:5-33)
This prophecy was fulfilled within the lifetime of those who heard Jesus speak.

Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened (Matt 24:34).
Jesus statement is very clear. This passage was fulfilled in AD 70, so it should not be used to explain the future (see Jesus Big Prophecy for more).

2. The Seventy Weeks of Daniel (Dan 9:20-27)
Daniel’s was praying for the end of the exile in Babylon. The angel told him what would happen in the next 490 years.
Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people (Dan 9:24).
These 490 years ended at the time of Jesus, so Daniel’s prophecy has been fulfilled. Some Christians insert a gap before the last week, but there is no biblical justification for this practice. Assuming that part of this vision still has to be fulfilled will produce confusion (see Seventy Sevens for more).

3. The Woman and the Dragon (Revelation 12)
The book of Revelation covers all of New Testament history. The birth and resurrection of Jesus are described in the vision of the Woman and the Dragon.
And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne (Rev 12:5).
The vision ends with Israel being scattered among the nations by the Roman Empire. Christians have confused themselves by applying this passage to the future (see Woman and the Dragon).

These passages are favourites of Christians who want to understand the future, but they have already been fulfilled, so it is time to let them go. We will not lose anything by doing this, as there are plenty of other passages that have not been fulfilled. Those who want to understand God’s plan for history should focus on these.

As long as Christians keep trying to push these three scriptures that have been fulfilled into the future, but ignore others that are relevant for the future, confusion is bound to continue.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Times of the Gentiles (5) - Season End

Jesus gave a clear way of knowing when the Times of the Gentiles are ended.

Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’ (Matt 23:38-39).
The sign of that marks the end of the season is Jewish people blessing Christians who have come to share the gospel of Jesus. This has not happened yet, so we are still in the Times of the Gentiles (Blessing Christians is not the same as taking money from Christian nations to buy weapons).

The times of the Gentiles will come to an end when the sorrows of the Jews are complete. Satan’s last legal authority on earth will be gone, so his ability to do evil will be severely curtailed, leading to a rapid decline in evil. Once Satan has lost his right to work in the world, God will be free to pour out his Spirit and bring the Kingdom to its promised fulfilment. The Jews will welcome the gospel and the season of the Kingdom will begin.

Christians often say that God is doing a new thing. We should be careful about making this kind of statement. A new thing will not happen on earth, unless something changes in the spiritual dimension. The ascension of Jesus changed things in heaven, so it resulted in a new thing on earth (Pentecost). Since then, God has mostly been doing the same thing. However, the end of the judgement of Israel does represent a change in the spiritual dimension (Dan 7:26), so it will produce a "new thing" on earth.

The final years of the Times of the Gentiles will be marked by terrible trouble and distress, as the devil strikes out in a last desperate attempt to retain the power that is slipping from his grasp. At the same time, human governments will seize unprecedented political power in order to build paradise on earth. Their efforts will fail dramatically during a season of distress. Faith in political and military power will be totally shaken.

The Time of Distress is a sub-season that runs in parallel to Times of the Gentiles as they draw to an end. These seasons end together with the Fullness of Israel.

The release of the Four Horsemen of Revelation is the epochal event that marks the beginning of the Times of Distress.
+ Expand

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Times of the Gentiles (4) - Too Long

During the Times of the Gentiles.

  • The people of Israel are scattered among the nations.

  • They will be hostile to the gospel.

  • The church will not reach its full capability

  • The Holy Spirit is constrained.

  • Satan has a legal right to be active in the world, despite his defeat.

  • The world will be dominated by strong political empires.

  • The Kingdom of God rises and declines, but does not come to fulfilment.

The Times of the Gentiles has gone on much longer than God intended, because:
  • The people of the world continue to put their faith in political power for security and prosperity.

  • Human government is seen as the solution to every problem.

  • The Jews continues to resist the idea that Jesus is their messiah.

  • Christian witness to the Jews has mostly been defective.

  • Christians have encouraged Israeli militarism.

  • Christians have been better at persecuting the Jews than demonstrating God’s love for them.

  • Christians trust in political power, military force and economic riches.

  • Most Christians have been unwilling to suffer through times of distress by taking up the cross and following Jesus.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Times of the Gentiles (3) - Truncated Church Constrained Spirit

At the beginning of the Times of the Gentiles, the Roman Empire scattering the Jewish people to the nations across the earth. For people who loved their land, this was like being in "a desert", but it is also a safe place. God keeps his people safe in exile during Times of the Gentiles.

During the Times of the Gentiles, most of the Jewish people will be unable to receive it because their hearts are hardened. They are reluctant to recognise him as their Messiah, so the church is filled up with gentiles. The gentile nations dominate the world.

The church is truncated because the Jewish people have hardened their hearts against Jesus and are missing from his body. A church without the chosen people is incomplete. With part of the team missing, the church is ineffective.

During the Times of the Gentiles, the Holy Spirit will be constrained by lack of faith, and be unable to operate to his full potential. When this season ends, the Holy Spirit will be able to speak and act effectively on earth.

The church cannot not reach its full potential during the the Times of the Gentiles, because the Jews are missing. That has been the story for the last two thousand years. Towards the end of this season, the church will come under extreme pressure from the world, but God will pour out his Spirit in preparation for launching the age of the Kingdom.

Power without suffering always fails. During the Times of the Gentiles, the church uses spiritual power to control the political powers, in the same way that Elijah attempted to control King Ahab. It tries to advance the Kingdom of God by imposing Christian laws on the rest of society. This strategy fails, because God intends his church to pursue the cross, not power.

Towards the end of the season, the political powers will persecute the church so severely, that it appears to be dead. The people of the world celebrate joyously, because a minor irritant is gone, but God has a surprise for them. When the church seems to be dead, he breathes the life of the Spirit into it and raises it up to victory.

A radical church that has survived underground and prepared while not one has notices will burst onto the world stage, knowing that in Christ, it is seated at his right hand of the Father in heaven. The people of the world will be shocked when they realise that church is not dead, just different and far more powerful.

A detailed study of these themes can be found in Time Times and Half a Time, with apologies for a few numerics.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Earthquakes Wars and Famines

Many Christians believe that earthquakes, wars and famines are a sign that the second coming is close. The belief is based on Jesus statement in Matthew 24:4-7.

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
There are two problems with this belief. The first is that Jesus was warning about the destruction of Jerusalem and not the second coming (for more on this see Jesus Big Prophecy). He was adamant these would happen within the life times of his listeners.
I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened (Matt 24:34-35).
When Jesus said that “all these things” must take place while the current generation was alive, he was referring back to his statement about the temple and the disciples question.
Do you see all these things… not one stone here will be left on another (Matt 24:2).
Tell us, when will these things be (Matt 24:3)?
The only catastrophe that took place within the appropriate time span was the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, so when Jesus spoke about wars famines and earthquakes, he was not talking about his second coming. He was describing things that would happen before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Jesus warnings were fulfilled, as these things did happen in the period before the Roman armies laid siege and destroyed Jerusalem.
  1. War - Rome had enjoyed a long period of peace, but not long after the ascension of Jesus, war and strife became widespread in the empire. Four Roman emperors died violently in a space of eighteen months. A war between the Syrians and the Jews led to the death of 20,000 Jews.

  2. Famine - Acts 11:28 records a famine that occurred during the reign of the Emperor Claudius. This famine spread to many parts of the empire and was followed by a pestilence that killed many people.

  3. Earthquakes are recorded in a variety of places prior to AD 70. The city of Pompeii was severely damaged by an earthquake in AD 63. Other earthquakes occurred in Crete, Smyrna Miletus, Laodicea, Colossae, Rome and Judea.

The wars, famines and earthquakes that Jesus spoke of have already occurred. They were nothing to do with the second coming.

The second problem is that wars, famines and earthquakes are not a real sign. Before speaking of these things, Jesus actually warned his disciples not to be deceived by them.
Watch out that no one deceives you (Matt 24:4).
The disciples had asked for a sign that would indicate that the fall of Jerusalem was near. Before giving the specific signs, Jesus gave some unreliable signs and warned his listeners not to be deceived by them. The misleading signs were wars famines and earthquake. His followers should ignore these signs when deciding what to do.

Jesus explained why these are unreliable signs. The reason is simple.
See to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen (Matt 24:6).
The reasons they are not to be alarmed is that these types of things are “bound to happen”. Wars, famines and earthquakes have been common throughout human history. Because they happen so frequently, they cannot be meaningful signs. Those who see these things as signs of the second coming will be continually getting false alarms.

There was a good reasons why wars, famines and earthquakes occurred during the last days of the temple system.
All these are the beginning of sorrows (Matt 12:6).
When a people or nation loses the blessing of God, troubles and sorrows always follows. The people of Israel had rejected their messiah, so they lost the protection of God. Sorrows were inevitable. These wars, earthquakes and famines were the just the beginning of the sorrow, that they would experience over the next few thousand years. This is true in all situations. When nations reject God, troubles will follow.

During the last two thousand years, rejection of God has been common, so naturally wars, famines and earthquakes have been common. Things that happen frequently cannot be a sign of the second coming. They are a sign that a culture has lost God’s blessing. Those who read more than that into them will be deceived.

When Jesus spoke about wars, famines and earthquakes, he was not talking about the second coming. Furthermore, he stated explicitly that they are not real signs. The widespread Christian belief that wars famines and earthquakes are a sign of the second coming is a bizarre distortion of his words.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Times of the Gentiles (2) - Characteristics

This disobedience of the Jews has consequences throughout the world. When Jesus died upon the cross, the devil was totally and fully defeated. He was cast out of heaven and can only continue to function on earth, if he can deceive people into rejecting the gospel (Rev 12:13). However he does have one last legal right on earth. The judgement of the Jews gives Satan the right to do evil against them (Matt 23:39).

Since the Jews had been scattered among the nations, he has been able to work in most nations. Whenever, Satan wants to do great evil in a nation, he incites it to attack the Jews and then he has a greater authority to do his work. For example, Satan incited both Hitler and Stalin to attack the Jews, which enabled him to do great evil through these men.

During the Times of the Gentiles:

  • The Jews are scattered among the nations for their safety.

  • They continue to resist the gospel.

  • Evil is unrestrained

  • The world is dominated by political power.

  • Human government will be unrestrained.

  • The church is constrained by lack of faith.

  • The Holy Spirit is held back, because he will not go where he is not invited.

This is why the battle has been so hard for the last two millennia. Part of the team is missing. The church is not complete, so it has been functioning at half power.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Times of the Gentiles (1) - Jesus Warning

Jesus named the season when that would follow the Last Days, when he prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem.

There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the Times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:23-24)
Jesus called this season the “Times of the Gentiles”, because its defining feature is Jerusalem being trampled by the nations.

In the previous verses, Jesus clearly described the epochal event that would begin the Times of the Gentiles.
There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations (Luke 21:23-24).
The Roman armies invaded Israel and destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70. The Jewish people were taken prisoner and scattered among the nations. This event marked the beginning of the Times of the Gentiles.

The epochal event that ends this season has not yet occurred, so we are still living in the season called the Times of the Gentiles.

Paul explains the reason for season in his letter to the Romans.
Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the fullness of the nations has come in (Rom 11:25).
During the Times of the Gentiles, most Jews are hardened to the gospel, the church is dominated by gentile Christians and Jerusalem is ruled by gentile armies. Only a few Jews have found peace through Jesus, and Jerusalem has no peace.

Paul describes Israel as a disobedient nation (Rom 10:21). Although a few have been saved, the nation as a whole is shut off from God. They are enemies of the gospel (Rom 11:28) committed to disobedience (Rom 11:31) and broken out of the vine (Rom 11:17).

During the Times of the Gentiles, the majority of Jews are absent from the Kingdom, because their nation has rejected the Messiah and is under judgment. The Kingdom cannot come to fulfilment until the judgment of Israel is complete.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Last Days (7) - ►The Destruction of Jerusalem

The epochal event that marked the end of the Last Days and the beginning of the next season is the Destruction of Jerusalem. When the temple was destroyed and the Jewish people scattered in exile, the old order that had obstinately persisted on during throughout the Last Days was finally dead. The destruction of Jerusalem was the final ‘nail in the coffin’ of the old system.

Jesus predicted the fall of Jerusalem in Matthew 24:1-35, Mark 13:1-31 and Luke 21:5-33. Most Christians believe these verses describe events before the Second Coming. This is not true. I explain the reasons in detail in
Jesus Big Prophecy.

To understand these verses, we must note the question that Jesus was answering. The disciples had commented on the glory and beauty of the temple, but Jesus warned that it would be totally destroyed.

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” (Luke 21:5-6).
The disciples could not believe this would happen; the temple was the centre of their world, so they asked him when these things would happen. Jesus gave them the signs leading up to this terrible event.

He warned Christians to flee Jerusalem when it was surrounded by armies and idolatrous sacrifice was made in the temple. In AD 70, a Roman army surrounded Jerusalem and started a terrible siege. The Jewish historian Josephus described the siege and the terrible tribulation it caused. Conditions were so severe that mothers ate their babies to survive. Jesus' awful prophecies were fulfilled. However, Christians who had heeded Jesus warning left the city before the siege began and fled to the safety of the mountains.

The Destruction of Jerusalem was the epochal event that marked the beginning of a new season called the Times of the Gentiles. It was a judgment event for Israel.
For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written (Luke 21:22,24).
The Jews had rejected Jesus. Forty years later, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and they were scattered among the nations. The destruction of Jerusalem was a judgment on the city that had crucified the Son of God and rejected his ministry.

During the Last Days, the fledging church was centred on Jerusalem. After the destruction of Jerusalem, the centre of gravity shifted to Asia Minor.

The Last Days (6) - Not Preterist

This analysis of the Last Days is not preterist. Anyway I do not like the term, as it does not make sense.

Interpretations of the apocalyptic books of the Bible have been divided into two approaches.

  1. The preterist approach says that all the prophetic passages were fulfilled in the first century through the rise of the church and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
  2. The futurist approach suggest that all the prophetic scriptures will be fulfilled in the future.
I dislike all labels, but these two are particularly stupid, because they whack the scriptures with an axe to pack them into a single box.

The Destruction of Jerusalem was a spiritual significant event, so it is natural that it would be prophesied. However, this was not the last significant spiritual event I history, so it is logical that many subsequent events would also be prophesied. Pushing all the prophetic scriptures into 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.

I prefer a common sense approach that 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.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Last Days (5) - Summary

The Last Days lasted for forty years.

The season began with Jesus ministry on earth

In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe (Heb 1:2).
He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake (1 Pet 1:20).
The Last Days really kicked in when the Holy Spirit was poured out on all believers at Pentecost.
No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Acts 2:16-17).
The gospel was preached to the Jews throughout the last days.

The Last Days were a season of mercy that gave those who had refused to accept Jesus as their Messiah an opportunity to change their minds.

Most of the Jewish people hardened their hearts against the gospel. Many would scoff at the gospel.
You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires (2 Pet 3:3)
In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires (Jude 18).
The gospel was taken into all the world.
The gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace (Col 1:6).
The Jews persecuted those who preached the gospel.
Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers (Acts 14:2).
The Last Days and ended with the Destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Last Days (4) - Eziquotes

A small number of scriptures are used frequently by Christians to prove a point. I call the verses "eziquotes". A Christian will often refer to one off these eziquotes, as if they have proved a point they are making, without any further argument. They never examine the context of the eziquote, and they never discuss what the writer of the scriptures is actually saying. They just recite the eziquote, and that is that. Case proved.

2 Tim 3:1-5 is a classic eziquote.

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
Christians often quote these verses as proof that the second coming of Jesus is getting close. They say, “Look, young people are rebelling against their parents. Timothy Three proves that the second coming is near”. The eziquoters never discuss the context of this passage, and they never consider in detail what Paul is saying to Timothy. They just assume that they have proved their point by referring to the eziquote. However, they have not proved their point, because they are using the scriptures in a misleading way.

For most of this letter, Paul warns Timothy about the opposition that he will face in his ministry and urges him to press on regardless. Paul cites his own experience. In chapter 2, he refers to the opposition from Hymenaeus and Philetus, who undermined the gospel by claiming that the resurrection of the dead had already taken place. When referring to widespread wickedness in the eziquote, Paul is warning Timothy that he will have to deal with people who are proud, boastful, rebellious, etc.

Paul was not giving signs of the second coming. He only mentions the second coming in one place in the entire letter (2 Tim 4:1-2), where he gives no signs, but simply urges Timothy to keep on preaching the gospel.

Chapter 3 of the letter has nothing to do with the second coming. Paul is not giving signs of anything. He is simply warning Timothy that he will have to continue dealing with this stuff as he fulfils his calling. Christians who use these verses as an eziquote giving signs of the time are wrenching it out of context.

The Meaning
Paul lists a number of sins in 2 Tim 3:1-5. The problem for those who use these verses as a sign of the times is that there is nothing unique about the sins on the list. They are all common and garden variety sins. Boasting, rebellion, pride, religiosity have been present in every culture in every age. These sins exist at all times, so they cannot be a sign of a particular time.

That is why these verses have caused so much confusion. Christians throughout history have seen children rebelling against their parents and assumed that the second coming is near. They have always been disappointed, because these sins are not a sign of anything. They are normal in the world. If we could ask Paul, he would tell every young evangelist that they will encounter these sins.

Paul explained how Timothy should respond to the sins listed in this eziquote. In the previous chapter, he describes the correct response.
A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will (2 Tim 2:24-26).
These are not signs, they are pastoral and evangelistic issues that must be handled sensitively. The objective is that those who are encumbered by sin will escape and come to repentance and faith.

Normal for the Season
The real problem with the sins on the list is their consequence. Those who sin in this way can go on to worm their way into households and deceive gullible Jewish people who were loaded down by sin (2 Tim 3:6-7) (gentiles did not care about sin). These people were Paul’s concern, not the second coming.

Paul longed for his people to come to salvation.
I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel (Rom 9:2-4).
Although he was called to be an apostle to the gentiles, the first thing he did in any new town was to go to the Jews who lived there and share his faith. Only when they rejected him, did he go to the Gentiles and share the gospel. Now as he was getting near the end of his ministry and the opportunity provided by the Last Days were coming to an end, he was probably realising it was not going to happen. Jewish hostility to the gospel had increased rather than declined.

Most of the opposition to Paul’s ministry came from Jewish people. He used his experiences in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra as examples that Timothy knew about (2 Tim 3:10-11). In each of these cities, the opposition had come from Jews who had followed him around (Acts 13:50; Acts 14:2; Acts 14:19). Paul was warning Timothy that until the Last Days came to an end, Jewish teachers would be a major obstacle to the gospel. As a Jew, Timothy could expect to experience the same kind of trouble as Paul had experienced.

The hostility of the Jews would get worse before it got better.
Evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse (2 Tim 3:13)
As the last days of their system drew to a close, the hostility of Jewish teachers and leaders would get worse, but Timothy must not give up. He should press on with his calling and preach the gospel boldly.
Join with me in suffering for the gospel (2 Tim 1:8).
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season (2 Tim 4:2).
This Jewish persecution would only stop when the season of mercy to Israel ended. While the temple system was still in place, Jewish teachers would still have credibility. They could oppose the Christian message. Worse still, they could twist the gospel by adding Jewish customs like circumcision and food laws. There hostility would become irrelevant when the temple was destroyed in AD 70 during the destruction of Jerusalem. Once the temple and its sacrifices had been obliterated, the Jewish teachers lost their credibility. They could not claim to be at the centre of God’s revelation when their temple had been destroyed and they were scattered outside the land.

Paul knew that God was having mercy on Israel for a short season. During that season, they would be a pain by opposing the gospel, but it was worth it, because the same season might allow them time to see the light.

Christians who cling to this eziquote, because they want to believe that Jesus is coming soon, totally misunderstand what Paul was saying to Timothy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Last Days (3) - Mercy

The Last Days were not an important season for the Gentiles, as the ministry of Jesus had opened up salvation to everyone. The gospel had gone out into all the world and that would continue to happen after the season had ended.

The gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world (Col 1:6).
The Last Days were a season of mercy for Israel. This short season gave all the adults who were present when Jesus was crucified the rest of their lives to change their attitude to him. Anyone who was an adult in AD 33 when Jesus died would be quite old by AD 70 when the Last Days came to an end. This season of mercy gave them a chance to admit they were wrong and put things right with God.

Jesus had prophesied that the religious and political leaders of Israel would continue to reject him (Matt 23:33-39). However, God is always fair, so he gave the Jews plenty of time to acknowledge Jesus as their messiah. Nearly forty years would pass before their fate was set in stone. Unfortunately this season of mercy was mostly wasted.

What should have happened? When Jesus made his perfect sacrifice on the cross, the Jewish leaders should have put a stop to the sacrifices in the temple. These sacrifices had always pointed forward to Jesus perfect sacrifice, so once it had come, they were obsolete. When Jesus ascended into heaven and was ordained as the perfect high priest, the priests in Jerusalem were out of a job. They should have resigned and gone home, or better still, gone out and preached the good news. Once the Holy Spirit had been poured out at Pentecost, every believer was a temple of the Holy Spirit, so there was no need for a special place for God to dwell on earth. The temple in Jerusalem was redundant and could be turned into a museum.

However, the priests and political leaders were so attached to their old order that they could not let it go. They continued to offer animal sacrifices in the temple. These offerings could not point to Jesus anymore, so they became a blasphemous insult to him. The priest who carried on in their role became usurpers of Jesus ministry.

Worse still, the Jewish leaders attacked the fledgling church right from the start. Throughout the Acts of the Apostles, the most serious persecution came from the Jewish leaders.

During the Last Days, the gospel was preached throughout Israel, but most of the people hardened their hearts.
What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened (Rom 11:7)
The Jews did not take advantage of the mercy shown them during the Last Days of the old order, so God had no choice but to bring the temple system to and end and scatter the people among the nations.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Last Days (2) - Confusion

Many readers will find this hard to believe that the "last days" are finished. The reason for the muddle is that the last days (plural) of the Jewish system are confused with the last day (singular), that glorious day when Jesus will return. The Last Days are really the period of time between the ministry of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The Last Day is the day when Jesus returns. They are very different. The first is a season, whereas the last day is an epochal event.

An examination of the Scriptures reveals five references to the last days (Acts 2:17; 2 Tim 3:1; Heb 1:2; James 5:3; 2 Pet 3:3) and two referring to the last times (1 Pet 1:20; Jude 18). In four of the seven, the author considered that he was living in the last days. Hebrews James and Peter's letters were written to Jewish Christians and that Timothy was a Jew, so all references to the last days were in epistles written to the Jews. They would have understood that they were living in the last days of their national system.

The term Last Days refers to the period between Jesus birth and the destruction of Jerusalem. The Last Day is in the future, but the Last Days are in the past.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Last Days (1) - Old Order Gone

A new season called the last days began when Jesus arrived on earth.

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by his Son whom He has appointed heir of all things (Heb 1:1-2).
The Last Days ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. During this short season, the Old Testament religious system ground to a halt.

The letter to the Hebrews explains that the temple sacrifices only applied until beginning of a new order that began with Jesus.
The gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only… external regulations applying until the time of the new order (Heb 9:10).
The death and resurrection of Jesus marked the end of the Old Testament system and the beginning of a new order. Jesus ministry was the epochal event that brought in the Last Days of the Old Testament order. It struggled on for a while, but its days were numbered.

The ministry of Jesus ended Jerusalem’s role in God’s purposes.
  1. The temple in Jerusalem had been the centre of sacrifice; but Jesus death on the cross put an end to sacrifice forever. Jesus became the only high priest that will ever be needed, so the animal sacrifices in a temple were redundant.

  2. Jerusalem had been the throne of the King of Israel. When Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, everything changed. When he was crowned as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, a role of the King of Israel was finished.

When Jesus entered the presence of God as the perfect High Priest and was appointed as King of Creation, the old order was finished.

God sent the Holy Spirit into the church to do his work in the world.
He has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father (Rev 1:6).
The body of Christ became the new kings and priests who serve God in the world, so the old order was finished. It carried on as if nothing had happened, but its days were numbered. The old order was in its Last Days.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Change of Season (7) - Gods Plan

The following diagram shows how various events fit together.

+ Enlarge

Where Are We Now?
Christians who think that we are transitioning into a new season are correct, but they often misunderstand what this means, because they are confused about the next season. Before we can know what we should do, we need to know which season we are in. We also need to know which season comes next. And because the next season is a tough one, we need to know what comes after that too, or we will lose hope.

We really are at a pivotal time in human history. The Times of the Gentiles are coming to an end. The reason that Christians feel that the seasons are changing is that we are entering this Time of Distress. This is the short season that runs in parallel to the Times of the Gentiles during the final stages of this much longer season. We should be getting ready for this transition.

The Times of the Gentiles and the Time of Distress end together with the Fullness of Israel. This opens up the way for the glorious season when the Kingdom of God comes on earth as it is in heaven.

These five seasons are clearly visible in the scriptures, not hidden behind images or numerics. To help our understanding, the five seasons will be discussed in more detail in the following posts.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Change of Season (6) - Five Seasons

Christians who think that we are transitioning into a new season are correct, but they often misunderstand what this means, because they are confused about the next season. Before we can know what we should do, we need to know which season we are in. We also need to know which season comes next. And because the next season is a tough one, we need to know what comes after that too, or we will lose hope.

The New Testament age consists of five seasons of varying length. The first and the last are very short. The middle season is a little longer. The second has been long. The fourth will be really long.

The five seasons are:

  1. The Last Days (Heb 1:2)
  2. Times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24)
  3. Time of distress (Dan 12:1)
  4. His Kingdom has come (Luke 11:2; Rev 11:15)
  5. Little Time (Rev 20:3)
The pattern of a short season followed by a very long one and then a very short one is repeated twice. The second and fifth seasons are very long. The third and sixth are very short. The seasons on earth are followed by of eternity giving a total of seven seasons. This parallels the six days of creation followed by the day of rest.

Epochal Events
Six epochal events mark the transition from one to season to another. They are:
  • Jesus Ministry (AD 33)                               to 1
  • The Fall of Jerusalem (AD 70)                  1 to 2
  • Four Horsemen                                         to 3
  • The Fullness of Israel                           2,3 to 4
  • The Man of Sin                                       4 to 5
  • The Parousia (Second Coming)                ends 5

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Change of Season (5) - Times and Seasons

God is sovereign and is working out his plan for history. He knows the beginning from the end, and has determined times and seasons for life on earth. God has allotted periods and the boundaries for all nations and will decide their rising and falling (Acts 17:26). He expects his people to know his plans and understand what he is doing in every age (1 Thes 5:1).

The NASB translates the word "times" as "epochs". The word "epoch" is derived from a Greek word, which means pause. It is used to describe the breaks between the acts of a play. In God’s plan, each new season is started by an epochal event that marks the end of the old season and the beginning of the new one. God breaks in and changes the "state of the play" to start a new stage of history.

The key epochal events in the Old Testament were creation, the fall, the flood, the tower of Babel, the exodus, the kingship of David, the exile to Babylon and the return to Israel. The incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus was the ultimate epochal event that marked the beginning of the New Testament era. We should understand the times and seasons that were set into play by Jesus death, resurrection and ascension.

The New Testament era is a game of two halves. The first half began with Last Days of the Jewish religious system. This short season ended with the Fall of Jerusalem. This epochal event leads into a season that Jesus called the Times of the Gentiles. This long season dominates the first half of the New Testament age. The end of the Times of the Gentiles is marked by a relatively-short sub-season called the Time of Distress. The Times of the Gentiles and the Time of Distress both ended with the same epochal event.

Last Days =► Time of the Gentiles =► Time of Distress

The first half of the New Testament age is drawing to close and we are getting close to the half-time change over. The second half begins with an epochal event called the fullness of Israel, which opens the way for the Holy Spirit to give the saints the promised Kingdom. The glory of his Kingdom will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. God will enjoy his Glorious Kingdom, so it might remain on earth for a long, long time. The end of the season will be marked by an epochal event. The appearance of the Man of Sin opens a way for nations to rebel and reject the Kingdom. This Little Season of rebellion will be cut short by Jesus return, which brings the end of history as we know it.

Time of Distress =► Glorious Kingdom =► Little Season

Monday, May 09, 2011

Change of Season (4) - 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. The two thousand years that have passed since Jesus was crucified seems like a long time top us, but God it is just like two days. If only two days have gone by, God has no reason to wind up his show on earth. The opposite is true. He is not slow, but 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 hand full 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 years 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 generations.
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 day crowds were disappointing. He intends to establish his kingdom, so he will take as long as he needs to do it.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Change of Season (3) - Rock and Mountain

If we want to be part of what God is doing in this time, we must understand his plans. The key is understanding that human history this side of the cross has two halves. We are involved in a game of two halves (see the Rugby Parable). During the first part, the focus is on the church. During the second stage, the Kingdom of God grows to fulfilment.

These two stages are explained in Daniel 2. The Babylonian king dreamed about a great statue. God revealed the dream and its interpretation to Daniel. He explained that the statue represented four kingdoms. The head of gold symbolised the Babylonian empire. The feet of iron and clay represented the Roman Empire, which would come 300 years later. Nebuchadnezzar also saw a great rock smash into the feet of the statue and destroy it.

While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace (Dan 2:34-35).
When the Roman Empire has come to power, God would set in process his plan to destroy the empires of world.

The Hebrew word for stone (eben) is etymologically linked with the word for Son (ben). God sent his son into the world as the servant messiah. After his ascension, Jesus will send the Spirit from heaven to build the church on earth. This first part of the New Testament age is centred on the church, which is represented by a Rock.

Daniel explained that the second stage of history will be more like a Mountain. This is what Nebuchadnezzar saw.
But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth (Dan 2:34-35).
During the second stage, the Rock is transformed into a huge Mountain. Daniel explained its meaning.
In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever (Dan 2:44).
God will establish a kingdom that can never be destroyed. The Church will inherit the Kingdom of God, which is the great mountain that fills the entire earth. God will crush all other kingdoms of the world and bring them to an end. They will be like chaff that is swept away without a trace.
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD,
as the waters cover the sea (Hab 2:14).
God has promised that the glory of his kingdom will fill the entire earth. This promise has not yet been fulfilled, so we are still in the age of the Rock.

The Kingdom of God has not yet filled the whole earth, so even if we are getting close to the transition from rock to the mountain, we are still in the age that focuses on the church.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Change of Season (2) - Not the Last Days

Many Christians believe that we are in a season called the Last Days. This is a mistake. The Bible teaches that the Last Days began when Jesus was walking on earth.

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by his Son whom He has appointed heir of all things (Heb 1:1-2).
The Last Days had already begun when these worlds were written. The explanation is that the term refers to the Last Days of the Jewish religious system. It is the season between the ministry of the Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. In this year, the temple was destroyed and the Jewish people were scattered among the nations. The end of this season ushered in a season called the Times of the Gentiles.

We are still in the Times of the Gentiles. It will not be ended by the Last Days, because they came before the Times of the Gentiles, not at their end. Those who are looking for the Last Days are looking for the wrong season, because it has already been completed.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Change of Season (1) - End of the World?

Many Christians believe that we are getting close to the second coming of Jesus and the end of the world. Those who believe that the end of the world is near tend to believe that we have entered the “end times” or “last days”. They are right to think that we are getting close to a season change, but because they do not understand the times and seasons, they are looking for the wrong event. The problem is that most Christians just assume that God’s plan has the following steps.

Jesus ministry =► Church age =► End times =► End of World

This outline is incorrect. It produces confusion about what is happening in the world.

Firstly, the end of the world is not the next big event on God’s timetable. He has many things to do before his plans for this earth are complete, so the end of the world is a long way off. A far more important and more significant epochal event is much closer.

Secondly, a season called the “end times” is never mentioned by the scriptures as part of God’s plan. The only place where the words “time” and “end” are used together is in Daniel 12:9.
Daniel has asked, if he would see if he would see the things that he prophesied.
Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up
and sealed until the time of the end.
Daniel’s was told not to expect his vision to be fulfilled during his life time, as they were for a time way in the future. This time is called the time of the end. This leaves a big question: the end of what. The answer can be found in the content of Daniel’s vision. He did not see the world coming to an end, so it is not the world that is ending. Daniel sees the end of the season when empires dominate the world. He also sees the end of the season when his people are shut out of God’s blessing. It follows that when Daniel refers the time of the end, he is not referring to the end of the world, but to the end of the times of the Gentiles.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

War gets Personal

The death of Osama bin Laden marks a change in the nature of warfare, but for a different reason than most people think.

For most of history, war was a personal affair in which a king and his colourful knights would attack another political leader and his retinue. Most kings could not afford a large number of troops, so the armies involved were quite small. Battles could last for several years, but were usually quite localised.

The ordinary people were not affected, unless they lived close to the battlefield, and they would be given plenty of time to flee. Kings often had to borrow from banks to pay their soldiers, so they were often quite stingy. The greatest threat to the lives of ordinary people came from looting by soldiers who had not been paid or supplied with provisions.

The nature of warfare changed dramatically changed during the nineteenth century when the concept of total war emerged when entire nations began to join in battle with another battle. War ceased being a contest between two kings and became a struggle between nations. Kings fight over territory. Nations tend to fight over causes, and everyone is drawn into the cause.

Huge armies were formed as ordinary people commit to the cause, because they are persuaded that life and security depended on security. Non-combatants were expected to support the war effort by reducing their consumption and manufacturing weapons and equipment for the army. Civilians became target for artillery and bombs. In total war, the number of civilian casualties far exceeds the number of military casualties.

The American Civil War started the trend toward total war, but it really came to fullness in the first and second world wars. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated the futility of this type of war and we will see a switch back to much more personal wars. Conflicts between nations will be replaced by more focussed personal struggles between political or military leaders, as sophisticated military equipment makes personal warfare feasible.
We have just seen personal warfare being worked out in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Whereas a hundred thousand troops have failed to achieve their objective, a small team of loyal followers directed by the president has been able to take out the leader of the enemy force.

The same thing will probably happen in Libya. Britain, Italy and France do not want to invade the country, because the cost would be too great, but they hope to change the situation on the ground by killing Muammar Gadhafi. A couple of attempts to bomb his compound have failed, but they will eventually succeed. If not an American drone will do the job.

In the next few years, personal warfare will become more common. They deaths of Osama bin Laden and Muammar Gadhafi will make the killing of wicked dictators and evil military leaders morally acceptable. The development of unmanned predator drones and mobile strike teams will make it an efficient way to remove evil leaders from the world. Personal attacks against undesirable political leaders will become an effective tool for projecting American force in the world. The fear of a personal strike will cause many hostile leaders to submit to American policies.

In the film Waterloo, General Wellington refused permission to an artillery officer wanted to fire long range shot at Napoleon. He is heard saying, "Leaders of armies have better things to do than fire at each other!" That has now changed. Many political leaders believe that best thing to do is to kill the leader of a troublesome nation.

A return to personal wars fought between kings will not bring peace to the world. Total war may decline, but Fourth Generation War will increase, producing massive casualties throughout the world.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Suffering and the Kingdom (11) - Too Long

One reason that the Kingdom of God has taken so long to be established is that Christians have to often taken the wrong response to evil. When we try to overcome evil with military force and political power, we sometimes achieves a temporary victory, but the Holy Spirit is cramped and 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.

When order breaks down, Christian will be tempted to step in and use political power to bring order back to the world. The church did this through Christendom after the collapse of Rome. A new order was created, but the Kingdom of god was not advanced. Christians should resist the temptation to seize power to restore order, as that would postpone God’s plans for the Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God will come in fullness when his church is willing to follow Jesus all the way and take up the cross in the face of evil. Suffering in tribulation will release the Kingdom of God.

This full series is at Suffering and the Kingdom.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Suffering and the Kingdom (10) - Bride come First

The Bride of Christ is persecuted for resisting state control. The opening of the first Four Seals releases a time of terrible trouble on earth, leading the people of the world to look to their governments to rescue them. This will produce a huge increase in state power and open the way for the Terrible Beast, the ultimate form of state control. The Bride will speak prophetically and warn of the futility of trusting in human government, but the truth will be rewarded with persecution.

Persecution will transform the church. Christian political and administrative structures will be torn down and destroyed by hostile political forces. Churches that depend on professional leadership, well-managed organisation, big meetings and church buildings will be easily to shut down, so Christians that depend on them will struggle to survive.

Christians will be stripped of their attachments to the world and the religious systems they have relied will be ripped away. Communities defined by love and strong relationships will emerge in their place, as Christians will be forced into deeper relationships with each other in order to survive. The Holy Spirit will flood these communities with love and power, while teaching them to do the will of Jesus. As they take up the cross and following Jesus, they will begin to love one another, as Jesus loved us (John 13:34).

God cannot bring in the Times of Distress until the Bride of Christ has made herself ready. When she has prepared, she tells Jesus bring in a new season.

The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come" (Rev 22:17)!
The Greek word “Come” is “erchomai” and not “Parousia” The former refers to the a coming in judgment against evil, whereas the latter refers to coming in judgment against to Beast to bring in the Time of Distress. When the Bride is ready, the Holy Spirit tells Jesus to bring in the season in which the world system will be destroyed opening the way for the Kingdom of God to come. When the Bride is ready, she says “Come”, because she is ready and willing to go through the Times of Distress to get to the Fulfilment of the Kingdom.

When the Bride is prepared, Jesus open the seals and release the events described in the Book of Revelation. The Bride enables him to fulfil his plans, because she gives the Holy Spirit freedom to do his work on earth, even if it means pain for his people. She follows Jesus in suffering, because she knows how he defeated evil.
  • He gave up his place in glory, he emptied himself to became a man.
  • He allowed himself to be killed on the cross.
The Holy Spirit can use the Bride to defeat the powers of evil, because she is willing to follow his example.
They overcame the dragon
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 (Rev 12:11-12)!
Jesus needs a church that is willing to suffer to the point of death without pleading to be rescued. The Bride of Christ frees the Holy Spirit to destroy the principalities and powers by suffering in the face of persecution.