Monday, October 31, 2011

Israel (6) - How Long

The destruction of Jerusalem marked the beginning of a new season called 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. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Luke 21:23-24).
Jesus warned that people of Israel that their house would remain desolate throughout this season. Jesus’ listeners probably did not expect this season to last that long, but two thousand years have gone by since he gave his warning. That leaves a big question.
How long will this house remain desolate?
Jesus answer was very clear.
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 house will remain desolate, until the people of Israel bless those who come in the name of Jesus. This still has not happened yet.

Many Christian prophet’s use a different test from Jesus, and assume that Time of the Gentiles have ended, because some Jewish people have returned to their land. These end-time prophets are welcomed in Israel, because they say that everything is okay, but they are not real prophets.
They lead my people astray, saying, "Peace," when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash (Ez 13:10).
The real prophets who preach Jesus are still rejected, just as they were in the days before Jesus. The Holy Spirit cannot return to the house until Jesus is welcomed. Until that happens, their house remains desolate.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Israel (5) - Desolate

Jesus last words to Israel were terrible.

Look, your house is left to you desolate (Matt 23:38).
These are haunting words. Israel had always rejected the prophets and now after hundreds of year that rebellion is coming to an end in the rejection of Jesus (Mat 23:35).

When God’s chosen people reject God’s only son, they withdraw from the Father’s blessing. When Jesus is rejected, the Holy Spirit goes too. When the Holy Spirit is spurned, that nation’s house truly is desolate.

The problem is that house does not stay desolate. When the devil finds an empty house, he gathers up some friends and moves in.
When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied…. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there…. That is how it will be with this wicked generation (Matt 12:43-46).
A nation left desolate is a terrible thing, but it does not stay that way. Evil spirits come and dwell in the desolate house, and evil always follows evil.
Jesus went on to warn Israel what would happen.
How dreadful it will be in those days… For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equalled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive (Matt 24:19-22).
When the Holy Spirit moved out, spirits of anger, hatred and rebellion moved in. The people of Israel rebelled against Rome. In AD 70, the Roman army moved in and totally destroyed the nation. The temple was destroyed and Jerusalem was razed to the ground. Jesus warned that this would be the greatest tribulation ever. Nothing as bad has happened before, and nothing as bad will occur again. The Jewish historian Josephus described these events and it was truly a terrible time.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Israel (4) - Jesus

Jesus came to earth and perfectly fulfilled the Mosaic covenant.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matt 5:17-18).
The Israelites never managed to fulfil the law, because it was too hard. Jesus achieved what they could not do, and fulfilled the law on behalf of all those united with him by faith.

The Jewish people will never be able to fulfil their covenant by their own strength. The animal sacrifices never really did the trick, but pointed forward to Jesus sacrifice. Therefore, the Jews can only gain the blessings promised in their covenant by through faith in Jesus.

When Jesus ascended into heaven, he poured out his Holy Spirit on all those who would believe in him. A few in Israel accepted this gift, but most rejected him.

Pentecost was the new covenant promised by Jeremiah.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people” (Jer 31:33).
Jeremiah’s prophecy pointed forward to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When he dwells in human hearts, they will naturally do his will. This prophecy will not be fulfilled until he pours out his spirit on Israel at the end of the Times of the Gentiles.
I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son (Zech 12:10).
When the children of Israel believe in Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit, they will be able to fulfil the Mosaic covenant.

Without the new covenant of Jesus, the covenant with Moses is valid, but deficient. Until they come to faith in Jesus, the Jews are stuck in a dilemma. They have a wonderful covenant, but cannot experience the blessings it promised, no matter how hard they try to fulfil it. Without the fullness of his Spirit, they cannot walk in the blessing of the covenant. As long as they reject Jesus, the Jews are trapped under its curse. This continual breaking of the covenant is building up a curse that will have to be worked out in the future.

The Mosaic covenant is still valid, but the people of Israel cannot fulfil it without the imputed righteousness of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Without the new covenant, the old covenant is deficient, while in Jesus, the blessings of the old covenant can be received in full.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Israel (3) - Light to the World

The covenant with Moses on Mount Sinai was the first opportunity for the descendants of Abraham to bless the world. God gave Moses a system of law and government that would have been the envy of the surrounding nations, if the Israelites had made it work. They could have spread great blessing to the world, by exporting it to the nations.

Israel was called to be a light to the world. They could not give spiritual peace to the world, because they did not have it themselves. The temple sacrifices were a sideshow that did not achieve anything. They pointed forward to Jesus perfect sacrifice, so they only worked for people with faith that God would bring a better solution for sin. Abraham understood this truth.

Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness (Rom 4:9).
Israel could not give spiritual peace, but they could be a light by demonstrating God’s ideal system of government. This was their real calling in the Old Testament age.

God gave the law to Moses to enable the children of Israel to establish a peaceful society. Their role was to demonstrate how voluntary judges applying God’s law allows a peaceful and prosperous society to emerge. The observance and implementation of God’s law was meant to impress the nations.
See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today (Deut 4:5-8).
Israel’s main purpose was to demonstrate God’s unique system of government. God’s law applied by good judges, together with temporary military leaders can restrain the worst effects of sin and allow a safe, peaceful society to emerge, even in a sinful world. Many of the nations would have copied this model, but they never saw it demonstrated, because Israel never took this role seriously. God had given them a unique system of government with voluntary judges applying God’s law, but instead of celebrating God’s calling, they envied the surrounding nations and demanded a king.

Although they were choosing an inferior form of government, God eventually gave in and allowed Israel to have a king. They got one or two good ones, but most were duds. That was bad, but by copying a system of government from nations, they lost their distinctiveness and purpose. The Queen of Sheba saw Solomon’s wisdom, but she did not see God’s method of government. If she had, she would have been really amazed.

Israel’s failure is still affecting us. Because God’s system of government was never seriously tried, most people do not take it seriously. Most Christians are still fascinated with worldly government systems and do not even know that God has revealed his ideal form of government.

Israel is unlikely to recover this role. The responsibility for demonstrating good government now rests upon Christians. Hopefully, some will take up this calling and be a light to the world for godly government.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Israel (2) - Multitude

God is faithful. He will never break a covenant he has made with his people. He made a covenant with Abraham that still stands.

I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you (Gen 12:2-3).
God made Abraham great, but all the peoples of the earth have not yet been blessed through him. His descendants will have to be filled with the Spirit before this is fulfilled.
God also promised Abraham that his descendants would be a huge multitude.
Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them. So shall your descendants be (Gen 15:5).
This promise cannot be fulfilled by physical descendants. The total number of Jews is still well short of the stars in the sky. Under the new covenant, all who believe in Jesus are counted as children of Abraham. When the full number of those who will come to faith in Jesus are added to Abrahams physical descendants this promise will easily be fulfilled.

God has not broken the covenants made in the Old Testament. His covenant with Abraham still stands. All those who believe in Jesus are counted as children of Abraham to make his descendants as many as the stars in the sky.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Israel (1)

Christians tend to use the word “Israel” without defining clearly what they mean. It can refer to any of the following:

  1. The state of Israel;

  2. All the Jewish people living in the nation of Israel;

  3. All Jews throughout the world;

  4. All the descendants of Jacob (he was renamed Israel), whether they realise it or not.

Our loose use of the word creates confusion.
  • Many Christians seems to be referring to group 1 or group 2 when they speak about Israel.

  • The promises of the covenant apply to the fourth group.

  • The Christian focus on group 2 is too narrow. Only a small proportion of the descendants of Jacob are living in Israel.

  • The third group is two narrow. The Jews are mostly the descendants of Judah and Benjamin (two of Jacob’s sons). The ten tribes who were lost in Assyria are also descendants of Israel. They are spread through the world, and many do not know who they are.

  • Some of the fourth group (descendants of Jacob) will choose to return to the land of Israel, but they do not have to return to their land to discover Jesus.

Monday, October 24, 2011

RWC (8)

Well, the Rugby World Cup is over. Most of the world does not care, but the people of New Zealand are happy, because their team beat France to win the final last night.

Everyone now claims that the tournament was a huge success. I call this feel-good economics. If it feels good, it must have been an economic success. The dodgy cost-benefit exercises are now forgotten. The millions of dollars of taxpayer’s money that the government poured into the organisation of the event are now forgotten. The extra millions that had to be spent at the last minute to solve unexpected transport and event centre problems does not matter. The fact that the government is running a budget deficit and had to borrow the money to pay for hosting the cup is irrelevant. We all feel good, so the event was an economic success.

This is like the person who mortgaged his house and spent a month on the best luxury cruise that money can buy. He felt great while he was cruising the Mediterranean, but when he got home he still had a huge debt that he could not afford to repay, and interest payments to make each month. This is feel-good economics at its best.

Another example of people seeing what they want to see was the game last night. The French team was mediocre. They played with passion, but they lacked attacking force. Yet, the New Zealand team really struggled to beat them and at the end of the game, there was only one point between the two teams. If the French kicker had not been injured, his team might have won the game.

This morning the news media are telling a different story. The was a superb win over a magnificent opposition. The coaches are the best ever. The players were all brilliant. New Zealand played courageously and deserved to win.

I don’t know what game the reporters who write these things were watching. In the game that I saw, the New Zealand team played was an embarrassment. They fumbled the ball, threw aimless passes, kicked aimless high kicks, missed important tackles and missed kicks at goal. These mistakes constantly let their French back into the game. The New Zealand tactics seemed to be wrong, with the backs constantly charging at gaps that were not there, then losing the ball. Early in the second half, the coaches panicked and substituted some key players. This seemed to destroy the team’s cohesion, and the lineout and scrum became even more fragile. Up until the last two minutes, the French could easily have turned the score around. The New Zealand players were hugely relieved when they finally won by one point.

Actually, I do know what game the reporters were watching. They were watching the game that New Zealanders wanted to see, and they reported on that game. The people of New Zealander believed that they had the best team at the tournament and would easily win the final. We were robbed at the last few tournaments, so we deserved to win this one. Unfortunately, a bumbling performance did not fit with this narrative, so the news media gave New Zealand the story they want to hear, and now everyone is happy.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Protective Judgments (11) - Restoring Prophets

God seems to be restoring prophets to the church. If he can mature this gifting in the church, he might be able to raise up prophets with sufficient maturity to act as prophets to the nations. This would allow him to use protective judgements more effectively. Mature prophets would be able to release God to bring downs kings and rulers who had lost the plot, but we do not seem to be quite there yet. We really need genuine Daniels and Jeremiahs, who understand God’s purposes.

A picture of the prophets who emerge in this time is given in Revelation 10:9-11.

So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.” I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.”
We should be praying that God will raise up powerful prophets to speak to the nations during this season.

Prophesying protective judgments against the nations will only be a minor aspect of the prophetic role. Most of their activity will be in the church, overseeing the covenant people. If the prophets can stir up the church to take the gospel to evil nations, God’s Plan B will not be needed. This means that most New Testament prophets will function within the church. A few of these will speak to their own nation. Only a few of the more mature prophets will be called to the role of prophet to the nations. They will call protective judgments against evil nations, when the church has failed to apply God's Plan A.

This full series can be found at Nature of Judgments

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Protective Judgments (10) - Modern World

Several changes have occurred in the modern world.

  1. During the last few centuries, the church has been effective in taking the gospel to the poorer nations of the world, be it has been less effective in taking the gospel to nations where evil has taken hold. God’s Plan A has not been very effective. When Hitler rose to power in Germany, the church was compromised and ineffective. One reason Stalin was able to get control of Russia was that they Russian church had compromised with the Russian emperors.

  2. Christians have lost faith in the rainbow covenant and the protective judgments of God. Christian nations have usurped the role of enforcing protective judgments on evil nations.

    • The British Empire was the first attempt to use Christian military power to constrain evil in the world. British efforts to play God eventually failed and their empire collapsed.

    • During the last century, the United States has taken over from Britain as the decider of the rising and falling nations. Instead of allowing God to deal with evil in his way, the United States has usurped this role and how attempts to bring down nations they do not like. Because America does not understand God’s plans, it usually makes these situations worse.

    • The United States took responsibility for bringing down Hitler, without realising that God had raised up Hitler to destroy the power of Stalin’s Russia. America provided Stalin with military and economic support against Hitler, allowing him to establish a huge evil empire in Eastern Europe. Fortunately for the world, God destroyed the Russian empire in his own way, without needing to use American military power.

    • The United States has now decided that Iran is evil and must be destroyed. These efforts will fail, because the United States does not understand that God is raising Iran up to bring down the Western Beast when that becomes necessary.

    • When the United State decided that Saddam Hussein had become too evil and tried to destroy him, their efforts produced large numbers of casualties and very little peace. If a Christian prophet had pronounced judgement against Saddam Hussein, releasing the power of God to remove him from office, this would probably have been far less painful for the Iraqi people than a ten-year war.

    • A mature prophet proclaiming a protective judgment would have brought the downfall of Gadhafi of Libya quicker and more effectively than NATO.

    Prophetic proclamation of protective judgments is the best way to remove a bad government and evil nations. A militaristic Christian nation dominating the world with the weapons of war is not God’s solution.

  3. As we move into the Time of Distress, when the church is weak and the gospel constrained, God will need to use Plan B more frequently. He will need to destroy several nations, to keep evil under control on earth. To accomplish his goals during this season, God will need Christian prophets to work with him and release his power. Many of the protective judgements that occur during this season have already been recorded in the scriptures by the Old Testament. However, their prophecies will need to be given life in their time of fulfilment by Christian prophets moving in the fullness of the Spirit.

  4. Some Christians believe that that world is about to go into a "great tribulation". Their teachers claim that evil is going to control the world for seven years while the Holy Spirit is removed. This teaching is wrong, because if God allowed evil go gain total control the earth, he would be breaking his rainbow covenant. Modern teaching about a great tribulation is wrong, because God has promised that he will never let evil take over the world again.

  5. We are getting close to the end of the Time of the Gentiles and the Fullness of the Jews. The prophetic ministry have a central role in this transition. They will proclaim protective judgments against the nations that are attacking Israel, in fulfilment of Jesus promise recorded in Matt 23:39.

    Blessed is he who comes in the name of Jesus.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Protective Judgments (9) - New Testament

The rainbow covenant was eternal (Gen 9:12), so God continues to determine the rising and falling of the nations during the New Testament age.

He made all the nations…; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands (Acts 17:26).
When nations go sour and begin to magnify evil, God causes them to collapse and die. Sometimes they just collapse in on themselves, but often they destroyed by the armies of other nations.
The big difference in New Testament times is that protective judgment has become Plan B. God’s Plan A for dealing with evil nations and empires is the gospel and the Spirit. If Christians take the gospel to the evil nation, the hearts of the people can be changed. If these Christians are willing to suffer in the face of persecution, they can change the direction of the evil nation. If enough people come to faith in Jesus, the leaders of the nation will have to change too. If the church heeds his call, the Holy Spirit can use the gospel to transform an evil nation.

During the gospel age, God only sends protective judgments when the gospel fails. This should be very rare. If the church is doing its job, most evil nations will be transformed by the gospel. Situations where evil gets so entrenched that it begins to threat to the world should not really occur. Unfortunately, the church sometimes gets sluggish and does not fulfil its role, which allows evil nations to expand and grow.

Rome is an example. For two or three hundred years, the church was very effective and nearly transformed the Rome empire. However, after the conversion of Constantine, the church was seduced by political power, which compromised its witness. This left God with no option, but to send protective judgment to destroy the power of Rome. After being invaded by marauding armies, the Roman empire collapsed and disappeared.

During the New Testament age, God is still committed to the rainbow covenant, so he continues to use protective judgements when this is necessary. However, he prefers to work thought gospel and the Spirit to transform evil nations. This is more effective way of dealing with evil, because it gets to the root cause of the problem.

Statements that God has stopped using judgments during the age of grace are wrong.

God’s role is clearer, if prophets warn the collapsing nation why it is falling apart. When God is about to send a protective judgment, he needs New Testament prophets to speak to the nations effective. John demonstrated the role of prophet to the nations with his prophesy of the fall of Babylon the Great (Rev 18).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Protective Judgments (8) - Prophetic Role

One role of the Old Testament prophets was to speak to evil nations and warn them of the approaching protective judgments. Their declarations and intercession gives God authority to deal with political evil. God’s purposes are clearer, if a prophet warns in advance. When the prophets speak clearly, the people of the world see that God is fulfilling the rainbow covenant that he made through Noah.

When announcing protective judgments to the nations, the prophets did not refer to the covenant with Moses, because these nations were not covered by it. The nations had never agreed to the covenant of blessings and curses and blessings made with Moses, so it was not relevant to their situation.

The protective judgments announced by the prophets were not redemptive, so they never gave a call to repentance and conditions for restoration. The situation was so evil that repentance was no longer possible. Protective judgment only occurs when a people or nation has gone so far into evil that it is beyond hope and in danger of becoming a destructive force on earth. The prophets reminded these nations that they had become so evil that God has no option but to bring them down. They had become a threat to God’s promise that evil will never dominate the world again.

Nineveh was an exception. Jonah was sent to announce a destructive judgment on a city that had gone too far into evil. Nineveh was so evil that God had to destroy it to prevent evil spreading, so Jonah believed there was not hope for it. This is why he did not give a call for repentance. However, a surprising thing happened. The King of Nineveh did repent and commanded the people to do the same. This caused God to defer the destruction of the city (Jon 3:4-10). Unfortunately, the repentance did not last long and the people returned to evil path that they had been pursuing. God eventually had to destroy Nineveh to prevent evil spreading (Nahum 1:1-6).

Speaking to nations to warn of protective judgment was a minor part of the OT prophet’s role. Most of their prophecies were spoken to Israel as guardians of the covenant. Modern prophets should have a similar balance. Announcing protective judgments against the surrounding nations was relatively rare.

The Outcome
Another two thousand years passed between the flood and the birth of Jesus. During that time God fulfilled his rainbow covenant by constraining evil on earth. Some seriously evil nations emerged, but God brought them down, before evil was rampant in the way that it was before the flood. When Jesus was born on earth, evil nations and empires were still at work, but they had not been able to destroy the earth. The prophets and protective judgments had limited the harm done by evil men.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Protective Judgments (7) - Methods

Isaiah described some of the methods God uses for protective judgments.

  1. Natural events. The river Nile was dried up to constrain Egypt.

    The waters of the river will dry up, and the riverbed will be parched and dry (Is 19:5).

  2. Confusing leaders. God sometimes causes confusion or foolishness among the leaders of the evil nation. This happened in Egypt.

    I will stir up Egyptian against Egyptian—brother will fight against brother, neighbor against neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom (Is 19:2).

  3. Invading nation. God often raises up another nation to destroy the an evil one. Babylon was destroyed by the Medes and the Persians.

    See, I will stir up against them the Medes… Their bows will strike down the young men; Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms will be overthrown by God (Is 13:17-19).

An invading nation was the most common form of protective judgment.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Protective Judgments (6) - Old Testament

The Old Testament records a number of situations where God sent a protective judgment to prevent the advance of evil in fulfilment of the rainbow covenant.

  1. The disruption of the tower of Babel was the first protective judgment recorded in the scriptures. When the people of the world got together to expand their power, God sent confusion among the people, because he could see that it would lead to terrible evil (Gen 11:5-6). The prophetic voice is not identified.

  2. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed when evil was rampant and threatened to spill out across the Middle East (Gen 18:20-21). Abraham was the prophet who released God’s power to act ((Gen 20:7). The faithfulness and righteousness of Abraham gave God to his prayers. His prayers protected Lots and his family, but they also gave God authority to remove a serious evil from the earth authority to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.

  3. The Kings of Canaan were destroyed by and invading army when their evil began to get out of hand (Gen 15:16; 17:8). Moses was the prophet who pronounced judgment against the sin that had taken control of Caanan.

  4. God destroyed the armies of Pharaoh to set the children of Israel free from their captivity in Egypt. Moses was the prophet who made this protective judgment possible (Deut 34:10). He prophesied specifically by holding out his staff and releasing the power of God against the army of Egypt.

  5. The Assyrian empire was destroyed by God when it Got out of hand. This event was prophesied by Isaiah (Is 14:25).

  6. God used Babylon to smash the power of Egypt. This event was prophesied by Isaiah (Isaiah 19:1-4) and Jeremiah (Jer 46).

  7. The Babylonian empire collapsed when it was invaded by Darius Mede. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel were the prophets who made this possible (Is 13:17-22; Jer 50-51). Daniel was on the spot giving precise warnings (Dan 5).

In each of these situations, a powerful force for evil was emerging in the world. If these had been left to grow, they could have produced tremendous evil. God cut them down before they got big enough to ruin the earth. God has been faithful to the promise of the rainbow. Evil has never been able to take control of earth as it did before the flood, because God’s judgements have kept evil in check.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Protective Judgments (5) - Israel

Establishing Israel did two things to constrain the growth of evil in the world.

  1. God gave Israel the law to constrain personal and social evil. God intended that other nations to copy Israel and get a similar reduction in personal and social evil by applying God’s law. Unfortunately, Israel chose to copy the nations and have a king, so they never demonstrated the benefits of God’s law to the nations. The law should have constrained personal evil in Israel and throughout the world.

  2. God planted Israel in the playground of empires in the middle of the world to provide himself with a prophetic voice to announce protective judgments against emerging evil in the surrounding empires and nations. The strategic position of Israel in the Middle East meant that any emerging empire would eventually pass through it on the way to do battle with its enemies. The rampaging of the empires gave the prophets of Israel authority to speak God’s judgments against them. When the empires took people from Israel into captivity, they bought prophets into their midst and strengthening the power of the prophetic voice. Joseph and Daniel are prophets who ended up within the empires that God planned to destroy. Protective judgments and the prophets constrained political evil.

These two solutions were not perfect, because only the cross and the spirit can fully deal with evil. However, this two-pronged strategy for dealing with personal and political, should have kept the world from totally going to the dogs.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Protective Judgments (4) - Prophetic Ministry

God wanted to restrain evil on earth, but he had given authority over the earth to man. To implement a strategy of protective judgments against evil, he needed permission from people on earth. He raised up the prophetic ministry to give him authority to send judgment on earth. When the situation turned sour and God needed to take action, his prophets would proclaim God’s condemnation of the evil. This prophetic declaration would give God permission to send a protective judgment against the evil that the prophet had pronounced judgment against. The prophet’s declaration expresses God’s judgment/verdict on the evil. God’s action against the evil represents his sentence against the evil.

Prophets and judgments go together. Without the prophets, God does not have authority to bring preventive judgments against evil. Unless God sends judgments against emerging evil, the prophets would be just crying in the wind. Prophets and protective judgments were God strategy for constraining evil in the world.

The first prophecy recorded in the Old Testament was spoken by Lamech when he named his son Noah.

He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed (Gen 5:29).
This was an important prophecy, because it opened the way for Noah to enter into a prophetic ministry that would begin to roll back the effects of sin and the curse. Noah was the first prophet. James called him a herald of righteousness (2 Pet 2:5) His proclamation that God would send judgment on the evil of the earth gave God authority to send the flood.

Abraham was the next major prophet to emerge on earth (Gen 20:7). He heard God’s voice and moved to Canaan, where God was planning to establish an oasis of peace in a hostile world. His prophetic voice gave God authority to remove the serious evil that was emerging in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Protective Judgments (3) - New Way

Noah and his family represented a new start on earth, but God realised that if he allowed things to carry on as before, the same result would eventually occur. He did two things to limit the expansion of evil on earth.

  1. God locked up some of the evil spirits that had been free to work on earth. When the people they worked through died God shut them away where they could do no harm (1 Peter 3:19; 2 Pet 2:4-5).

  2. God began a program of protective judgments to knock back evil before it gets out of hand in the way it did before.

The second change was the basis for the rainbow covenant with Noah. God did not just promise not to send another flood. He was actually promising that he would not need to send another flood, because he would not let conditions get so bad on earth that it needed to be destroyed. This is the promise of the covenant of Noah.

God will never let evil get so bad on earth again. He promised to prevent evil from getting so strong that it has potential to destroy the entire earth. When an evil nation or evil empire gets too powerful, God will send judgments against it to prevent evil from growing too strong. The judgments of God will prevent evil from dominating the earth again. He sometimes uses a natural disaster to accomplish his purposes. At other times, he raises up another nation to pull down the one that has got too big for its boots.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Protective Judgments (2) - Rainbow Covenant

The basis for protective judgments is the covenant that God made with Noah. This covenant is different from other covenants, because it was not exclusive, but applies to all people and animals on the earth.

Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth (Gen 9:16).
The rainbow reminds us of covenant with all people forever. The rainbow covenant is unconditional. No conditions are specified for fulfilling the covenant. No consequences were specified for failure to keep the covenant. The covenant with Noah is and unconditional promise to all the people of the earth through all time.

The common understanding is that God was just promising not to destroy the earth by another flood. This does not seem very likely anyway, so this view makes the covenant seem irrelevant. We do not see a rainbow and think, “Wow, I am glad that God is keeping his covenant”. Because Christians assume we have a better covenant and do not need this old one, we have missed the significance of God’s promise.

To understand the importance of the rainbow covenant announced to Noah, we need to know who holds authority on earth. When God created the world he gave dominion over the earth to man (Gen 1:26). This bold act transferred authority over the earth from God to man. This is confirmed in Psalm 115:16:
The highest heavens belong to the LORD,
but the earth he has given to man.
God has control over the heavens, but he has given full control of the earth to man. This means that God cannot act on earth without human permission. When humans sinned and let evil take hold on earth and got caught up in evil, God had the power to put things right, but he did not have authority to act, because he had given authority over the earth to humans. God could not just intervene to put things right, but had to wait until he is invited by the people on earth.

By the time of the flood, life on earth had gone on for nearly 2000 years. That was a long time, almost as long as the time from the time of Jesus until now. The population had grown and humans would have developed in many amazing ways. Unfortunately, for most of this time very few people knew God and served him. Enoch was an exception, but he was taken out before he had an impact (Gen 5:24). Most people ignored God, so God received very few invitations to act on earth. With very few people praying, the Holy Spirit was almost entirely shut out of the earth.

Under these conditions, evil advanced in a terrible way. All human developments were twisted for evil purposes.
The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time (Gen 6:5).
The situation on earth terrible.
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways (Gen 6:11-12).
The Hebrew word translated “corrupt” is “shachath”. This word is used through the record of Noah’s covenant. It means “destroy” or “ruin”. God looked upon the earth and saw that it was being ruined by the evil in human hearts. When Noah’s prayers gave him permission to act, he had no choice, but to destroy (shachath) the people of the earth by water to prevent the earth that he loved from being totally ruined (shachath).
Everything on earth will perish (Gen 6:17).
Prior to the cross, this was the only way to destroy rampant evil and prevent wicked men from destroying the earth.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Protective Judgments (1)

The scriptures record a different type of judgment that does fit within a covenant that spells out the conditions and consequences of obedience. The purpose of these judgments is not to strengthen a covenant, but to prevent evil from expanding and spreading. God has committed to preventing evil from taking hold on earth through a powerful nations and empires. He will sometimes send judgment to destroy the source of evil, before it does too much harm. These judgments are not redemptive. Their purpose is to destroy evil, before it gets out of control.

I will describe protective judgments in more detail in the next few posts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Covenant Judgments (6) - Standard Pattern

Judgments under a covenant follow a standard pattern.

  • The church or nation has a made a covenant with God.

  • The terms of the covenant are clearly understood.

  • The people of the covenant know what is required of them.

  • The covenant spells out the consequence for disobedience.

  • When the covenant is broken, God send prophets to challenge the disobedience and warn of the consequences.

  • The prophets call the people to repentance and explain what they must do to return to blessings.

  • The prophets are required to pray for the people.

  • If the people repent, the judgment will be averted.

Covenant judgments are redemptive, not destructive.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Covenant Judgments (5) - Church

In New Testament times, the church is the people of the new covenant. The prophetic role of watching over the covenant continues, but the focus has shift from nation to church. New Testament prophets are primarily responsible for watching their church, rather than their nation. Agabus, Judas and Silas are New Testament prophets who watched over their church to ensure that its leaders fulfilled their covenant with Jesus (Acts 11:28; Acts 15:31). This is not a doom and gloom ministry.

When a church loses the plot and persists in disobeying God, the Holy Spirit will be forced to withdraw. This is a new covenant judgment. These judgments should usually be called in advance by the prophets. They will warn of the consequence for the church and explain must be done to return to blessing. John’s letters to the seven churches are examples of a prophetic challenge to a church that has lost the plot. John explained what was wrong and where this would lead. He also told each church what it must do to return to blessing.

New covenant prophets watch over the church. They will not need to prophecy judgment against a church very often, because in contrast to OT Israel, the victory of the cross and the gift of the spirit means that most churches will mostly walks in blessing. More often they will need to encourage the church through the troubles that often arise when it obeys Jesus voice.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Covenant Judgments (4) - New Covenant

A new covenant was established when Jesus died on the cross. The benefits of this covenant are received by faith and the Spirit is given to enable those who trust in him to hear his voice and walk in obedience to him. They Holy Spirit is able to convict believer of sin and teach them how to serve God, so he generally does not need to send judgements to teach us how to live in the fullness of the covenant.

Under the Old Covenant, the people of Israel could assess how they were going with God by reviewing their external circumstances. Peace and prosperity were signs that they were obeying God. Poverty and war were signs of disobedience. The prophets just amplified these signals to the people.

The pattern is totally different under the New Covenant. The Sermon on the Mount warns that external circumstances are poor indicator of our spiritual state. Christians who are slack in following Jesus will often have a more comfortable life.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort (Luke 6:24).
Those who follow Jesus seriously will often be persecuted.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me (Matt 5:11).
Our situation does not provide a reliable indication of our spirituality. We need the witness of the Holy Spirit to know how we are doing. The peace that surpasses understanding is the best indicator that we are fulfilling the covenant. If we have fallen into sin, the conviction of the Holy Spirit should turn us back to the right path. We will sometimes need a jolt from a prophet to confirm his witness, but that should be quite rare. God should not need to send judgments to keep Christians on track.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Covenant Judgments (3) - The Cross

The role of prophesying to the people of the old covenant was curtailed by the cross. Jesus took over the role of guardian of the that covenant and gave a final prophesy to Israel warning of the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt 23:33-24:2). The people of Israel were about to place themselves under the curse of the covenant by rejecting their messiah and handing him over to the Romans to be killed.

Look, your house is left to you desolate (Matt 23:38).
They were coming under a curse that would last for a long time.
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).
This judgement announced by Jesus will last until the Times of the Gentiles are complete. Israel will not come back under the blessing of their covenant until they believe in Jesus, so this is a long judgment.

Jesus warned the people of Jerusalem that they would not get another prophetic word for a long, long time.
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).
Being left without prophets is part of their desolation. All future prophets will be Christians, so if the Jews will not accept those who come in the name of Jesus, they will have no prophets (Micah 3:6). NT prophets will only get to speak freely to Israel when the Times of the Gentiles are coming to an end.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Covenant Judgments (2) - Israel

When God made a covenant with the people of Israel, he told them what he required of them in the law given through Moses. God promised to bless the people if they fulfilled the conditions of the covenant.

All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God (Deut 28:2).
These blessing are spelt out in detail. Moses also warned that failure to keep the covenant and trust in God would bring them under a curse.
However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you (Deut 28:15).
Deuteronomy lists the curses in even greater detail than the blessings. When left the true part and forgot about God, when these curses were fulfilled, they were referred to as the judgments of God.
You will be judged according to your conduct and your actions, declares the Sovereign LORD (Ezek 24:14).
I judged them according to their conduct and their actions (Ezek 36:19).God is Israel’s King and Judge. The covenant made them accountable to him for their behaviour. When they broke the covenant, he judged their actions and pronounced judgment against them. By disobeying God, the people of Israel placed themselves under the curse of the covenant.

The main role of the prophets was to be guardians of the covenant. Whenever, Israel broke the covenant, the prophets would challenge them and warn in advance of the judgments that would inevitably come, if they continued in disobedience. The prophets called the people to repentance and obedience, to prevent their warnings from being fulfilled.

Most of the prophecies in the Old Testament were warnings of curses/judgments that would come upon Israel, if the continued to reject God. Israel broke the covenant again and again, so the prophets had a consistent message. They often seemed to be full of doom and gloom because Israel was mostly living in disobedience. They could not be nice, because the prognosis for Israel was usually bad.

A few prophecies were declarations of judgment against local nations attacking Israel (Is 14:29). These judgements were fulfilment of the blessings of the covenant.
They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven (Deut 27:8).

Judgments (1)

In recent days, Christians have been discussing the role of judgments in the New Testament age. Judgment is a gloomy topic, so not many people study the topic, but it is important for understanding how God works in the world.

A common view is God’s judgments ceased with the cross. We are living in the age of grace when God works to transform nations by the gospel and the spirit. He will not judge nations until the great tribulation just before Jesus returns. The real judgments are stored up for the Last Judgement at the end of the age. I believe that this view is wrong and confused. To get to the truth we need to a clearer understanding of role of judgment in the scriptures.

The Old Testament describes to different types of judgment. These two types continue into the New Testament. Distinguishing these two types of judgment is really important.

  • Covenant Judgments

  • Protective Judgments

I will explain the difference in the next few posts.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Sign of the New Zealand Economy?

Two days ago, the container ship Rena sailed onto a reef outside the Port of Tauranga and is now stuck on the rocks and fuel is beginning to leak into the sea. It seems like the officers controlling the ship were not watching where they were going.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

RWC (7) - Idol

All peoples have their idols. Rugby has become a dominant idol in New Zealand. For many people, winning the Rugby World Cup is the most important thing that could happen to New Zealand.

I have always believed that this idol will have to be humbled before New Zealand can see a real revival. It will be interesting to see whether our rugby idol will be humbled, or deliver our hope.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

RWC (6) - Room for Everyone

A teacher once said that the good thing about a rugby team is that there is room for every boy. The short chubby boys can be props. The tool skinny guys can be locks. The short skinny boy can be put at halfback. The fast skinny boys can play as wings. The good kicker can play at flyhalf. The boy who can tackle, but cannot kick can play in the centers.

For a rugby team to play well, every boy must be in his place, and do what he is good at.

This makes a rugby team a good image for the body of Jesus. Everyone can belong to the body. There is a place whether every person fits and is needed. The body functions best, when the different members work together in different ways for a common purpose.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

RWC (5) - Nationalism

The RWC us a festival of nationalism. I dislike nationalism. I consider it to be one of the most evil forces at work in the modern world. Most modern wars have been driven by a nationalistic belligerence. Terrible deeds have been done in the name of a nation.

Nations are relatively modern invention, as five hundred years ago they did not exist. People lived in villages and their main loyalty was to their family and broader tribe. They might be loyal to a local leader who provided protection, but that loyalty only lasted as long as protection. Since urbanisation has broken down these local, nationalism has provided a less meaningful substitute for real communities.

Nationalism does not provide much, as it is a poor substitute for real community. On the other hand, it demands a lot. During peacetime, it demands taxation to support national goals. It also demands support for the national sports teams. During wartime, it demands commitment and death for the national cause.

The emergence of nationalism was driven by national political leaders. They needed to create a bond that would enable them to hold diverse and disparate people together under their rule. Nationalism filled the bill.

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 exist.

Nations have no place in the Kingdom of God. They create loyalties that are false. They divide groups of people apart on the basis of differences that are not real.. 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.

I can understand why the people of the world cling to these loyalties, but Christians are citizens Kingdom of God. Our main allegiance must be to our king. We should also have an allegiance to our families to the part of the body of Christ that supports us, but in the Kingdom of God, “there is neither Greek nor Jew” (Col 3:11). That means there are no Australians and no New Zealanders in the Kingdom of God. When we become citizens of the kingdom, loyalty to a nation is made irrelevant.

War is the best tool for strengthening nationalistic fervour, as people get pushed together by fear of a common enemy. During peacetime, international sport fills the same role.

International Sport is the maidservant of Nationalism.
Nationalism is the cheerleader for Totalitarian Democracy.

Monday, October 03, 2011

RWC (4) - Organised Violence

Rugby is called a contact sport, but that is an understatement. Skill plays a role, but the team that wins is the one with the greatest commitment. The commentators speak of “intensity” and “combativeness”, but these are just euphemisms for violence. Why do we want young men to be skilled in group violence. The team that plays in the most violent way may often win the game.

I can understand young boys playing physical games to prove and test themselves. I cannot see the point of grown men throwing themselves at each other violently to prevent the other side from advancing a ball. I wonder how this affects their spiritual lives? I worry about the spiritual effect that rugby has on our society.

During times of war, spirits of violence and anger and fear find a home among the contending armies. During peacetime, they need to find a place to hide, and rugby seems to provide it, because it is war without guns. To play with the necessary level of commitment, players often need to stir up anger towards the opposing team. This anger sometimes comes to the surface when a play ends with several players throwing punches at each other. When crunched by a bigger opponent, a player will often feel fear. These intense emotions could open the door for spirits looking for a home.

I hope that when the rugby players and supporters who come to New Zealand for the RWC will take their spirits of anger and fear home with them when they go. We have too much violence in NZ already.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Good Question

A reader called Mcdadius asked a serious question in a comment on an earlier post.

You have a prophecy from December 1999 on your website under the Christchurch heading. It is entitled "Shaking". I take it to be God speaking about Christchurch and the nation of NZ, however you turn around and say that God was not behind the earthquake, in your analysis you made regarding what qualifies as a judgement from God. It seems to me that this prophecy qualifies as the warning that precedes a judgement from God. I am confused by the seeming contradiction. The prophecy sounded like a warning to me. Might you be making the error mentioned in Prov. 3:5,6 of "leaning on your own understanding".

I believe God is in the process of bringing redemptive judgement on his church as spoken by Peter in 1 Peter 4:17-19. I believe Christchurch NZ is a sign for the shaking that has begun in the church worldwide. Just as the steeple fell on the cathedral in Christchurch NZ so also the steeple was damaged on the US National Cathedral in Washington DC during the recent earthquake on the east coast of the US. I heard an early news report that said they knew of no damage to any buildings in DC except the National Cathedral. It got my attention.

I respect your work but I don't understand this. Praying God's blessing and protection on you. (abridged)
This is a good question, so here is my response.

In an article called Prophetic Events, I distinguished between Shaking Judgments and Warning Events. Failure to distinguish between these different types of even has led to a great deal of confusion.

Shaking judgments are initiated by God to shake his people out of sin and complacency. He warns in advance so people know how to respond. A remnant prepared to share the gospel and minister peace to strengthen the people shaken is essential.

Warning Events are initiated by the spiritual forces of evil, when the sin of a city or nations gives them greater authority to do their stuff (see discerning seasons for the reason they get this power). These events are destructive not redemptive, but for alert Christians, they are a wake-up call, because they warn them that evil is getting a greater hold in their city or nation.

The earthquake in Christchurch was destructive. There were no warnings with conditions for repentance. It struck in the part of the city where the gospel witness is weakest, so no remnant was ready to share the gospel and minister the peace of the Spirit. If the people whose hearts are crushed by a disaster are left in pain for too long, their hearts harden and close tight, so shaking without a remnant does more harm than good.

On this basis, I have concluded that the Christchurch earthquake was a warning event and not as shaking judgment. God will work it for good to wake up his people, but he did not initiate it to shake our nation.

God will shake New Zealand, but our shaking will be economic, not geophysical. He is is trying to prepare a remnant, who will stand strong during a season of troubles and minister to his people.